By David Amoruso for Gangsters Inc.
Iran’s security apparatus has a very long reach using some of the underworld’s most shady figures to get rid of its enemies. On Monday, one Iranian national and two Canadian Hells Angels were charged with murder-for-hire as they targeted two Iranian dissidents who resided in the state of Maryland, USA.
49-year-old Naji Sharifi Zindashti might live in Iran, but he was an expert at finding people in faraway countries and sending a squad of assassins their way. His network targeted Iranian dissidents and opposition activists for kidnapping and assassination at the direction of the Iranian regime.
Using the encrypted messaging service called “SkyECC”, Zindashti was working his magic in December 2020 when he contacted 43-year-old Damion Patrick John Ryan. The two men texted about “jobs,” “equipment,” “tools” and plans to “make some money.”
Ryan is a full patch member of the Canadian Hells Angels so this chatter could either refer to motorcycle parts or a variety of criminal activities. As their messages went back and forth it became very clear they weren’t discussing a custom-made bike.
Zindashti (right) eyed a couple residing in Maryland at that time. The pair had previously fled to the United States after one of them defected from Iran.
“Shooting is probably easiest”
In January 2021, they discussed doing “a job” in the United States, with Ryan noting that doing a job there was challenging, but that he “might have someone to do it.” That same day he messaged 29-year-old Hells Angels affiliate Adam Richard Pearson about a “job” in Maryland.
Pearson bluntly stated, “shooting is probably easiest thing for them.” Regardless of the method, he was “on it.”
Ryan recommended “2 guys go with proper equipment.” Pearson said he would encourage the recruits for the job 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.”
On January 30, 2021, Zindashti messaged Ryan on SkyECC seeking an update on the job. Ryan responded that he was getting “things in order” and that he would need money. A few days later, Zindashti told Ryan that Zindashti’s organization was ready to move forward. Zindashti and Ryan then agreed on a $350,000 payment for the “job,” in addition to $20,000 to cover expenses. After Zindashti introduced Ryan to another man, Ryan responded: “We have a 4 man team ready.”
Over the days that followed, Ryan and the added help continued to correspond on SkyECC about the plot. Specifically, the man, listed in the indictment as Co-Conspirator 1, sent Ryan information about the would-be victims, including their photographs and images of a map that highlighted the victims’ known address. On March 8, 2021, the man facilitated a $20,000 payment to Ryan for purposes of covering travel expenses associated with the plot.
All three of the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. Pearson is also charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a fugitive from justice and one count of possession of a firearm by an alien unlawfully in the United States.
Zindashti currently resides in Iran. Ryan and Pearson are currently incarcerated in Canada on unrelated offenses.
Pursuant to today’s designations, Zindashti and several of his key associates are prohibited from engaging in any transaction or dealing that involves a U.S. person or occurs in the United States.
“Iranian groups trying to murder U.S. residents on U.S. soil”
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
“Today’s charges show a pattern of Iranian groups trying to murder U.S. residents on U.S. soil,” said Assistant Director Suzanne Turner of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “Mr. Zindashti and his accomplices’ alleged plot is reprehensible, and the FBI will not tolerate such acts against U.S. residents, and we will continue to pursue these individuals until they are brought to the U.S. to face justice.”
Iran’s modus operandi: Vicious gang bosses do its dirty work
This isn’t the first time Iran’s intelligence service has been connected to a murder plot involving hardened gangsters. In the Netherlands, Iran allegedly recruited the notorious Moroccan Mafia to eliminate two of their enemies.
On the morning of December 15, 2015, 56-year-old electrician Ali Motamed was shot in the head by a hitman in front of his rowhouse in the very mundane city of Almere, near Amsterdam. Motamed was really Mohammad Reza Kolahi Samadi, a member of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, who, according to Iranian authorities, was the mastermind behind the 1981 bombing of the headquarters of the Islamic Republican Party, killing over 70 officials.
The assassins were working on orders from Moroccan Dutch drug boss Naoufal Fassih, a close associate of Moroccan Dutch crime boss Ridouan Taghi. A fellow gangster once gave the following description of Fassih: “Naoufal is someone, he will cut you into pieces”. Alleging that he killed so many people he could fill a cemetery but leaves few traces. “Naoufal once shot a guy in the leg. He was sent to prison, came out, and shot the guy in his leg AGAIN! To call him crazy is putting it mildly.”
Fassih was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2018 after being found guilty of the attempted murder of an underworld rival.
In 2017, an assassin shot several bullets into Ahmad Mola Nissi, the leader of the Iranian separatist group Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz. Nissi died in front of his house in The Hague. He had been living in the Netherlands for over a decade. Dutch investigators believe a criminal organization from the port city of Rotterdam was involved in this hit, but that it was ordered by figures in Iran.
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