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DOJ: 2 residents targeted in murder-for-hire plot involving Iranian, Canadian nationals

By Tolly Taylor

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    BALTIMORE (WBAL) — Federal authorities charged an Iranian and two Canadian nationals with plotting the killings of two Maryland residents, according to a U.S. Department of Justice and FBI indictment filed in Minnesota and unsealed on Monday.

Between December 2020 and March 2021, Naji Sharifi Zindashti, Damion Patrick John Ryan and Adam Richard Pearson are alleged to have planned a murder-for-hire scheme using an encrypted communication service, gathering photos of the intended victims, as well as maps of where the victims could be located.

The intended victims had moved to Maryland after one of them defected from Iran, according to court documents.

Zindashti is described as an Iranian narcotics trafficker who leads “a network of individuals that targeted Iranian dissidents and opposition activists for assassination at the direction of the Iranian regime,” according to a U.S. Department of the Treasury statement released Monday.

“To those in Iran who plot murders on U.S. soil and the criminal actors who work with them, let today’s charges send a clear message: The Department of Justice will pursue you as long as it takes – and wherever you are – and deliver justice,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division said in the DOJ’s statement about the indictment.

Ryan, a full-patch member of the outlaw Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, was responsible for putting together a “four-man team” of gunmen that would travel to Maryland and assassinate the two state residents, the indictment states.

In January 2021, Zindashti contacted Ryan on the encrypted service and said his organization was ready for the “plot to move forward,” with the men agreeing on a payment of $350,000 as well as $20,000 for travel expenses, according to court documents.

All three men are charged with conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. Pearson is also charged with possession of a firearm by a fugitive from justice and possession of a firearm by an alien unlawfully in the United States.

Zindashti, who is also known as “Big” and “Big Guy,” according to the indictment, is a resident of Iran.

The indictment was filed in Minnesota’s U.S. District Court on Dec. 13, 2023.

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