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Two Canadians charged in plot to assassinate Iranian dissident

Photo: Patrick Semansky Archives Associated Press The US Department of Justice says Damion Patrick John Ryan, a member of the Hells Angels, and Adam Richard Pearson are both already incarcerated in Canada for crimes unrelated to this case.

Sarah Ritchie – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

January 29, 2024

  • United States

An Iranian drug trafficker allegedly plotted with two members of the Hells Angels in Canada to murder people in Maryland in early 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged Monday.

The targets of the assassination plot are not identified in the recently released court documents, but they are a man who defected from Iran and a woman with whom he had fled to the United States.

The indictment unsealed Monday alleges that Naji Sharifi Zindashti, Damion Patrick John Ryan and Adam Richard Pearson conspired to murder two unidentified people, including an Iranian dissident.

Zindashti, nicknamed “Big” and “Big Guy,” is a narcotics trafficker and part of a Tehran-led criminal network to target Iranian dissidents and activists, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury .

Prosecutors allege that Zindashti and his accomplice contacted Hells Angels member Damion Patrick John Ryan in British Columbia, who then hired Adam Richard Pearson, a Hells Angels affiliate and fugitive who was then living under an assumed identity in Minnesota.

The indictment says the two men discussed sordid details about how to eliminate the Iranian defector. Pearson wrote in part that he would “make sure to separate his head from his torso,” U.S. prosecutors said.

According to the allegations, which have not been proven in court, Naji Sharifi Zindashti agreed to pay US$350,000 for the two killings, and an additional $20,000 to cover expenses. Pearson and Ryan argued that killing the woman would cost more. The $20,000 payment was made in March 2021, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say messages between the conspirators included information about the two targets and cards showing their home addresses. The indictment does not detail how the plot was ultimately foiled.

Ryan, Zindashti and Pearson are charged with conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in murder-for-hire in the United States.

The two Canadians already detained

Ryan, 43, a member in good standing of the Hells Angels, is currently incarcerated in a Canadian prison for offenses unrelated to this case, according to U.S. prosecutors.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested him in February 2023 after searching an Ottawa residence and finding a dozen illegal handguns, imported from the United States, as well as ammunition and high-capacity magazines. , banned in Canada. He was then charged with several firearms-related offenses.

The US government believes Ryan has ties to criminals in the United States, Canada and Greece. The RCMP declared in 2023 that he was a member of a Greek section of the Hells Angels.

Pearson, 29, was arrested by the US Federal Police (FBI) in Minneapolis in July 2021 and then extradited to Canada in early 2022, where he was charged with the 2019 murder of an Albertan. He is still detained.

The U.S. government claims that Pearson was also affiliated with the Hells Angels. He is accused in the United States of possession of a firearm by a fugitive.

The United States and United Kingdom also sanctioned Zindashti and members of his network for carrying out “numerous acts of transnational repression, including assassinations and kidnappings, in an attempt to silence alleged critics of the Iranian regime,” according to a press release from the two countries.

“Iranian security forces protect Zindashti and his criminal empire, allowing him to thrive in the country's drug market and live a life of luxury while his network exports the regime's repression , conducting heinous operations on behalf of the government,” the U.S. Department of the Treasury said in a statement.

The U.S. Treasury Department identified the unnamed Iranian co-conspirator in the indictment as Nihat Abdulkadir Asan, a close associate of Zindashti who plays a key role in logistical planning.

The department also said Zindashti's network was linked to murders in Canada, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Zindashti is not on a public list of Iranian individuals and entities sanctioned by Canada. Global Affairs was asked for comments on the file.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116