(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department on Monday indicted an Iranian man and two Canadian nationals in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme that targeted dissidents and critics of the Iranian regime.
According to a newly-unsealed indictment, prosecutors say Naji Zindashti conspired with two Canadian men between December 2020 and March 2021 in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate two residents of Maryland.
The intended victims of the plot, who at the time resided in Maryland, had previously fled to the United States after one of them defected from Iran, the DOJ said.
The three men allegedly used an encrypted messaging service and discussed logistics of how to carry out the murders, communicating cryptically about “jobs,” “equipment,” tools” and how to “make some money.”
One of the Canadian men, Damion Ryan, allegedly wrote that carrying out a murder in the U.S. would be challenging but he “might have someone to do it,” and recommended “2 guys go with proper equipment.”
The other Canadian man, Adam Pearson, allegedly stated in a message that “shooting is probably easiest thing for them” and said he’d encourage recruits to “shoot [the victim] in the head a lot [to] make example” and that he would tell them “we gotta erase his head from his torso.”
Zindashti allegedly arranged for $350,000 payment for the murders, to which Ryan responded, “We have a 4 man team ready.”
All three men are charged with one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce in the commission of murder for hire.
Zindashti is believed to reside in Iran while Ryan and Pearson are currently in prison in Canada on unrelated offense, officials said.
The Treasury Department said Zindashti is a narcotics trafficker and leader of a network that operates at the behest of Iran’s intelligence services.
The two men he allegedly sought to recruit in the murder-for-hire plot revealed were members of Canada’s Hells Angels Outlaw Motorcycle Group with a long criminal history of firearms and drug trafficking offenses, the Treasury Department said.
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