Members of an Eastern European organized crime group allegedly plotted to kill an Iranian-American citizen in New York City who spoke out against the Iranian government

New York federal court today unsealed murder-for-hire and money-laundering charges against three members of an Eastern European criminal organization for plotting the murder of a U.S. citizen who was targeted by the Iranian government for speaking out against the regime’s human rights abuses.

Rafat Amirov, aka Farkhaddin Mirzoev, aka Pᴎᴍ, aka Rome, 43, is from Iran; Polad Omarov, aka Araz Aliyev, aka Polad Qaqa, aka Haci Qaqa, 38, is from the Czech Republic, according to court documents and Slovenia; Khalid Mehdiyev and Khalid Mehdiyev, 24, of Yonkers, NY, were charged with money laundering and murder-for-hire in a superseding indictment unsealed today in the Southern District of New York. Amirov, who lives in Iran, arrived in the Southern District of New York on January 26 and will be arraigned today before Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave. Mehdiyev was arrested on July 29, 2022, on charges in a potential criminal indictment and will appear in the superseded indictment on January 31, 2023 at 4:00 p.m. ET in the Hon. Colleen McMahon arraignment. Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic on January 4, 2023, and the United States will seek his extradition based on charges in the superseding indictment.

“In this case, the victim’s goal is to exercise the rights that every American citizen is entitled to. Victims have spoken out about the Iranian government’s human rights abuses; discrimination against women; suppression of democratic participation and expression; and arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and executions.” use,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said. “The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by authoritarian regimes to undermine the protections and rule of law on which our democracy depends. We will not tolerate attempts by foreign powers to threaten, suppress, or harm Americans. We will stop at nothing to identify, discover, and endanger America Those who are safe for the people are brought to justice.”

“Today’s indictment exposes a dangerous threat to national security — a double threat posed by a vicious transnational criminal group operating from what it considers a safe haven in the rogue state of Iran,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. . Monaco) said. “As national security and criminal threats continue to intersect, the Department of Justice will use all of its tools to aggressively protect freedom and hold accountable all those who use violence to undermine it.”

“The indictments unsealed today reflect the FBI’s commitment to pursuing the facts wherever they are, wherever the leaders of criminal conspiracies are, and using our long-standing influence to bring those responsible Those responsible are brought to the United States for trial,” said FBI Director Christopher Fry. “The alleged actions demonstrate the extent to which Iranian actors are willing to silence critics, going so far as to attempt to assassinate a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. We are determined to protect the rights of all Americans from oppression by hostile regimes.”

“Today’s charges underscore the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting Americans and our fundamental values ​​in the face of all forms of transnational repression,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olson in the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “For foreign actors plotting violence on our soil who they believe is beyond our reach, please know that we will hunt you down wherever you are until justice is served.”

U.S. Attorney Damian said: “As alleged, the defendants were members of an organized crime group who were hired to assassinate in New York City an Iranian-American citizen who had been critical of the regime’s dictatorship and Its disregard for human rights.” Williams represented the Southern District of New York. “This is the second time in the past two years that this office and our partners at the FBI have disrupted a conspiracy originating in Iran to kidnap or kill this victim as a ‘crime exercising the rights to free speech, independent political thought ‘, and advocated for the rights of the oppressed and disenfranchised in Iran. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the career prosecutors and FBI agents who led the investigation, this new conspiracy to silence victims has collapsed and the defendants will stand in U.S. courts Judgment.”

According to the allegations in the superseding indictment, other court documents and statements made during the court proceedings:

Amirov is the leader of an Eastern European criminal organization (organization) residing in Iran. Omarov also holds leadership positions in the organization and lives in Eastern Europe. Mehdiyev is a member of the group and lives in Yonkers, New York. The group has links to Iran and is violent, involved in murders, kidnappings, assaults and extortion, and its members often identify themselves with tattoos and other eight-pointed stars.

Beginning at least July 2022, the group has been tasked with murdering an Iranian-American citizen (the victim), after the Iranian government had been the target of a plot to intimidate, harass, and kidnap the victim. The victim, a journalist, author and human rights activist based in Brooklyn, New York, has spoken out about the Iranian government’s human rights abuses and suppression of political expression, including in connection with ongoing protests against the regime across Iran. As recently as 2020 and 2021, Iranian intelligence officials and assets conspired to kidnap victims from U.S. soil and extradite them to Iran in order to silence victims’ criticism of the regime. The plot was disrupted and uncovered by the FBI and resulted in federal kidnapping conspiracy and other charges against several of those involved in the plot in the Southern District of New York. United States v. United States. Farahani et al., 21 chrome. 430.

about a year later these fingers After the charges were filed, the group was tasked with carrying out assassinations of victims on U.S. soil. Beginning around mid-July 2022, Amirov sent Omarov targeted messages about the victim and the victim’s residence (which Amirov received from others in Iran). Omarov in turn relayed targeting information to Mehdiyev in order to begin surveillance of the victim and conduct reconnaissance of the victim’s residence and surrounding neighborhood. Mehdiyev sent photos and video of the victim’s residence to Omarov for further sharing with Amirov and Iranian plotters.

After Mehdiyev conducted initial surveillance of the victim’s residence, Amirov and Omarov arranged to pay Mehdiyev in New York City $30,000 in cash to advance the plot. Mehdiyev used some of the cash to purchase an AK-47-style assault rifle with two magazines and at least 66 rounds. Mehdiyev bragged in electronic communications that he had procured a “war machine” for himself.

Between July 20 and 28, 2022, Mehdiyev made numerous surveillance and reconnaissance trips to the victim’s neighborhood, sending reports, photos and videos of the victim’s activities to Omarov for further distribution to Amirov. On July 24, 2022, after arriving at the victim’s residence, Mehdiyev reported to Omarov that Mehdiyev was “at the scene of the crime.” Omarov encouraged Mehdiyev, “You’re a man!” Mehdiyev described to Omarov, “We blocked it from both sides, and once she’s out of the house, it’s going to be a show.” Omarov shared the report Retweeted to Amirov, who replied: “God bless.”

Mehdiyev was unable to carry out the assassination operation that day, and returned in the next few days to look for opportunities to complete the murder mission. Amirov, Omarov and Mehdiyev devised different tactics to try to lure their victims out, including trying to ask them for flowers from their gardens. On July 28, 2022, Mehdiyev sent Omarov a video taken from inside a car Mehdiyev was driving, showing an assault rifle, along with the message “We’re ready.” The victim left the area after observing suspicious activity outside the residence, and Mehdiyev drove away a short time later. During a subsequent search of the car after Mehdiyev drove away from the victim’s residence and was pulled over for a traffic violation, officers found an assault rifle, 66 rounds of ammunition, about $1,100 in cash and a black ski mask.

Amirov, Omarov and Mehdiyev were charged with: (1) murder for hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; (2) conspiracy to commit murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; (3) conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. years in prison. Mehdiyev was also charged with possessing a firearm with its serial number wiped off, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and its New York Field Office Counterintelligence Cyber ​​Division, the New York FBI Iran Threat Task Force, the New York FBI Counterintelligence Task Force and the New York FBI Joint Counterterrorism Task Force, the New York FBI The Bureau provided invaluable assistance to the York Police Department (NYPD) and the NYPD Intelligence Directorate, as well as the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Lockard, Jacob H. Gutwillig, and Matthew JC Hellman of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case, with invaluable assistance from trial attorney Christopher M. Rigali of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Homeland Security.

Indictments are just accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

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