To note: A video statement from ministry officials is available here.
An Iranian national and member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been charged in a complaint, unsealed today in the District of Columbia, with using interstate commercial facilities in the commission of a murder for remuneration and for supplying and attempting to supply material. supporting a transnational murder plot.
According to court documents, beginning in October 2021, Shahram Poursafi, alias Mehdi Rezayi, 45, from Tehran, Iran, attempted to organize the murder of former national security adviser John Bolton, likely in retaliation. to the January 2020 death of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Corps – Quds Force Commander (IRGC-QF) Qasem Soleimani. Poursafi, working on behalf of the IRGC-QF, attempted to pay $300,000 to individuals in the United States to carry out the murder in Washington, DC or Maryland.
“The Department of Justice has a solemn duty to defend our citizens against hostile governments that seek to harm or kill them,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. Justice. “This is not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to exact revenge on individuals on American soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt each such effort.”
“Iran has a history of plotting to assassinate individuals in the United States whom it views as a threat, but the United States government has a long history of holding accountable those who threaten the security of our citizens,” the statement said. Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI. National Security Branch. “Let there be no doubt: the FBI, the U.S. government, and our partners remain vigilant in countering such threats here in the United States and abroad.
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, through the defendant, attempted to instigate a shameless conspiracy to assassinate a former US official on US soil in retaliation for US actions,” the prosecutor said. American Matthew M. Graves of the District of Columbia. “Iran and other hostile governments must understand that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will do everything in their power to thwart their violent plots and bring those responsible to justice.”
“An attempted assassination of a former US government official on US soil is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Deputy Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “The FBI will continue to identify and disrupt any efforts by Iran or any hostile government seeking to harm or kill American citizens at home or abroad. This should serve as a warning to all who attempt to do the same – the FBI will be relentless in our efforts to identify, arrest and bring to justice those who would threaten our people and violate our laws.
According to court documents, on October 22, 2021, Poursafi asked Individual A, a US resident whom Poursafi had previously met online, to take photos of the former national security adviser, claiming the photos were for to a book that Poursafi was writing. Individual A told Poursafi that he/she could introduce Poursafi to another person who would take the photos for $5,000 to $10,000. Individual A then introduced Poursafi to an associate (referred to in court documents as the Confidential Human Source or CHS).
On November 9, 2021, Poursafi contacted the CHS on an encrypted messaging app, then directed the CHS to a second encrypted messaging app for further communication. Poursafi offered the CHS $250,000 to hire someone to “eliminate” the former national security adviser. This amount would then be negotiated up to $300,000. Poursafi added that he had an extra “job”, for which he would pay $1 million.
Poursafi ordered the CHS to open a cryptocurrency account to facilitate the payment, but stipulated that the CHS would likely have to commit the murder before they could be paid. He further explained to the CHS that if he was paid and the murder was not completed, Poursafi’s “group” would be angry. A subsequent search of one of Poursafi’s online accounts revealed photos of Poursafi wearing a uniform with an IRGC patch. During their communications, the CHS made several references to Poursafi’s association with the IRGC-QF. Poursafi has never denied his involvement with the IRGC-QF.
On November 14, 2021, the CHS asked Poursafi to help locate the former national security adviser. Poursafi then provided the CHS with the target’s business address in Washington, D.C. According to search results from one of Poursafi’s online accounts, on November 25, 2021, Poursafi took screenshots of a Map app showing a street view of the former National Security Advisor’s Office. A screenshot noted that the address was “10,162 km away”, which is the approximate distance between Washington, DC and Tehran, Iran.
On November 19, 2021, Poursafi told CHS that it didn’t matter how the murder was committed, but that his “group” would demand video confirmation of the target’s death. The CHS asked Poursafi what would happen if the murder was attributed to Iran. Poursafi told the CHS not to worry and that Poursafi’s “group” would take care of it.
Poursafi also advised the CHS to communicate on the ground in terms of building and construction. For example, when the CHS asked Poursafi to clarify how the murder was to be carried out, Poursafi told the CHS that he only asked the CHS to build a structure, but the construction method was up to the CHS.
On December 22, 2021, Poursafi sent the CHS a photograph of two plastic bags, each of which appeared to contain linked stacks of US currency and a handwritten note underneath that read: “[CHS’s name] 22.12.2021”.
On December 29, 2021, Poursafi asked the CHS when the murder would be committed and informed the CHS that his “group” wanted it done quickly.
On January 3, 2022, Poursafi noted that he was under pressure from “his people” to complete the killing and that Poursafi should report any delays. The CHS asked Poursafi how many people were involved. Poursafi told the CHS that he only had to report to one person, but that there was a chain of command to which his superior reported. On the same day, Poursafi regretted that the murder was not committed before the anniversary of Qasem Soleimani’s death. He said he feared that if not executed quickly, the job would be taken away from Poursafi and the CHS. Poursafi advised the CHS that if he/she used a “small weapon” he/she should get closer to the target, but if he/she used a “bigger weapon” he/she could stay further away.
On January 18, 2022, the CHS sent Poursafi publicly available information suggesting that the former national security adviser may leave the Washington, D.C. area, at the time Poursafi indicated he wanted the CHS to commit the murder. Poursafi told the CHS he had to “check something”. Less than an hour later, he told the CHS that the target, in fact, was not moving. He then provided the CHS with details regarding the former national security adviser’s schedule which do not appear to have been made public.
On January 21, 2022, Poursafi told the CHS that after successfully completing the first “job”, he had a second “job” for the CHS and informed the CHS that the surveillance of the second target was complete. Poursafi said the information was gathered “from the United States”, not “via Google”, indicating that someone working on behalf of the IRGC-QF had already carried out pre-operational surveillance on the second target. in the USA.
On February 1, 2022, Poursafi told the CHS that if he did not eliminate the target within two weeks, the position would be removed from the CHS. He also informed the CHS that someone had checked the area around the former national security adviser’s house, and he believed there was no security presence, so the CHS should be in able to “finish the job”.
On March 10, 2022, Poursafi told the CHS that he had another assassination job for the CHS in the United States, but to “keep [the former National Security Advisor] in the back of your mind. About a month later, Poursafi encouraged the CHS to accept this offer, explaining that if it was done successfully, Poursafi could indulge his “group” and take over the task of assassinating the former national security adviser. .
On April 28, 2022, the CHS told Poursafi that he would not continue working without being paid. Poursafi agreed to send the CHS $100 in cryptocurrency to a virtual wallet the CHS created earlier today, to prove the payment could be made. Later that day, the cryptocurrency wallet received two payouts totaling $100.
If convicted, Poursafi faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for using interstate commercial facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. and up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder conspiracy. Poursafi is still on the run abroad.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington field office. He is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Tortorice for the District of Columbia and Attorney General Joshua Champagne of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. Assistant United States Attorney Jason McCullough provided assistance in the case.