U.S. Charges Iranian Man and Two Canadians in Plot to Kill Refugees

An Iranian man accused of being the kingpin of a network that targets dissidents has been charged with hiring two Canadians, including a member of the Hells Angels, to kill two Iranian refugees living in Maryland, according to indictments unsealed on Monday.

The man, Naji Sharifi Zindashti, 49, is accused of being a drug trafficker and assassin in Iran. In December, a federal grand jury in Minnesota charged him with orchestrating a plot to murder an unidentified Iranian defector and another person in late 2020 and early 2021 using an encrypted messaging app to recruit killers.

Mr. Zindashti connected with Damion Ryan, 43, who, in turn, enlisted Adam R. Pearson, 29, according to court documents. Prosecutors identified Mr. Pearson as a “full-patch member of the outlaw Hells Angels Motorcycle Club” who was living illegally in Minnesota.

Both men are serving time in Canadian prisons on unrelated charges. In one chilling exchange described in one of the indictments, Mr. Pearson signaled his intention to shoot one of his targets in the head to send a message on behalf of his Iranian handler.

“We gotta erase his head from his torso,” Mr. Pearson said in an intercepted communication on the encrypted platform Sky ECC.

For reasons that are unclear, the hits were never carried out.

The men — who claimed to have organized a four-man team, including a driver — agreed to a $350,000 payment in January 2021. Mr. Zindashti, identified by the Treasury Department as a drug trafficker working at the behest of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, sent them photographs of the targets, a man and a woman, along with maps.

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