A 45-year-old member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is wanted by the FBI for plotting to murder former National Security Advisor John Bolton on U.S. soil, the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday.
The government believes that alleged plot was “likely” in retaliation for the January 2020 drone strike in Iraq that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, through the Defendant, tried to hatch a brazen plot: assassinate a former U.S. official on U.S. soil in retaliation for U.S. actions,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves said in a statement. “Iran and other hostile governments should understand that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will do everything in our power to thwart their violent plots and bring those responsible to justice.”
The DOJ described the scheme as a “transnational murder plot.” Prosecutors allege that Shahram Poursafi, a.k.a. Mehdi Rezayi, 45, of Tehran, Iran, “attempted to pay individuals in the United States $300,000 to carry out the murder” of Bolton in either Washington, D.C. or Maryland.
The scheme involved Poursafi allegedly asking a person listed only as “Individual A” to take photos of Bolton, purportedly for a book. Individual A then allegedly connected Poursafi to another person, listed only as a “confidential human source” or “CHS,” to take the photos for between $5,000 and $10,000.
Conversations via an encrypted messaging service — and then via a second encrypted service — beginning on Nov. 9, 2021, allegedly indicate that Poursafi “offered the CHS $250,000 to hire someone to ‘eliminate'” Bolton, the DOJ wrote. The amount would later be “negotiated up to $300,000,” the DOJ said.
An additional job from Poursafi would allegedly have paid $1 million, the DOJ asserted.
Poursafi then allegedly provided the CHS with information on where to locate Bolton. Poursafi also allegedly said that his group would require video confirmation that Bolton was dead.
By Dec. 29, 2021, “Poursafi asked the CHS when the murder would be carried out and informed the CHS that his ‘group’ wanted it done quickly,” the DOJ alleged.
By January 2022, Poursafi was allegedly growing nervous about the timeliness of the requested murder. He expressed angst that it would not be carried out on the anniversary of Soleimani’s death and began to discuss with the CHS a few theories on what type of weapon to use, according to the DOJ.
“Poursafi counseled the CHS that if he/she used a ‘small weapon,’ he/she would have to get close to the target, but if he/she used a ‘larger weapon,’ he/she could stay farther away,” the DOJ wrote.
In mid-January, Poursafi allegedly conversed with the CHS about Bolton’s potential travel plans. Poursafi “then provided the CHS with specifics regarding the former National Security Advisor’s schedule that do not appear to have been publicly available,” according to the DOJ.
That wasn’t the only accusation that the IRGC had people working in the U.S.
Once Bolton was out of the picture, Poursafi said a second job would be requested of the CHS, the DOJ continued. The second target was said to be under surveillance by someone in the United States working on behalf of IRGC.
By Feb. 1, 2022, Poursafi allegedly requested that the CHS complete the job within two weeks. The job would be easy, Poursafi allegedly suggested, because someone else working for the group ascertained that the Bolton home was not a secure facility.
On April 28, 2022, the DOJ says the CHS demanded at least some payment; Poursafi allegedly sent two $100 transactions via cryptocurrency.
“If convicted, Poursafi faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000 for the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, and up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000 for providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot,” the DOJ said. “Poursafi remains at large abroad.”
Read the affidavit here:
[Images via Win McNamee/Getty Images, DOJ]
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