On Monday the Department of Justice indicted an Iranian-backed drug lord along with two Canadian nationals, alleging that they planned to assassinate an Iranian dissident living in the United States.
According to an unsealed DOJ indictment, Naji Ibrahim Sharifi-Zindashti, an Iranian drug lord who supplies heroin and opium to senior Iranian officials, sent an encrypted message to Adam Pearson and Damion Ryan, two Canadian nationals, attempting to hire them to murder two people living in Maryland.
The DOJ charged all three men with engaging in a murder-for-hire plot, and Pearson was also charged with possessing a firearm as an unlawful alien and as a fugitive from justice.
Zindashti had previously been connected to Iranian efforts to silence enemies of the regime by facilitating assassinations and kidnappings at the direction of Iran, according to the Treasury Department.
Zindashti is based in Iran and has not been apprehended by authorities, and the two Canadian men are currently incarcerated in Canada on unrelated charges.
In January 2021, Zindashti contacted Ryan regarding a potential “job” in Maryland, the DOJ alleges, offering to pay him $350,000, plus $20,000 in travel expenses. Ryan contacted Pearson, and the two allegedly began planning the murder of two Maryland residents, one of whom had previously defected from Iran.
According to the DOJ’s indictment, Pearson told Ryan he would assemble a team to carry out the killing and that he would encourage them to “shoot [the victim] in the head a lot [to] make an example,” and tell them that “we gotta erase his head from this torso.”
According to Iran International, Zindashti’s operation trafficks more than 20% of the drugs in Iran, while the Treasury Department reports that his network is largely protected by the Iranian government and that he operates at the direction of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
The Treasury Department announced Monday that assets tied to Zindashti would be sanctioned.
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