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Monday, January 29, 2024

Three Charged in Iranian Murder for Hire Plot with Canadian Hells Angels

"Socalj" for Borderland Beat

One Iranian and two Canadian nationals have been charged with conspiracy to use interstate commerce in the commission of a murder-for-hire plot. The network, headed by Iranian-narco trafficker Naji Zindashti, recruited British Columbia-based Hells Angels member Damion Patrick John Ryan to assassinate individuals in the US who fled Iran.

The defendants, one of whom is based in Iran, used an encrypted messaging service called “SkyECC” to recruit individuals who would travel into the United States to carry out the killings, to discuss the identities and locations of the would-be victims, to plan logistics and mechanics of how to carry out the murders, and to negotiate payment for completion of this “job” in Maryland. 

According to court documents, from December 2020 through March 2021, Naji Sharifi Zindashti, 49, Damion Patrick John Ryan, 43, and Adam Richard Pearson, 29, conspired with each other in a plot to murder two residents of the state of Maryland. 

Ryan, whose criminal history ranges from firearms trafficking charges to international drug trafficking, has ties to several criminal elements in Canada, the United States, and Greece. He is a full-patch member of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle club, based in the BC area.

Ryan was the target of a wild 2015 murder attempt at the Vancouver Airport's food court, carried out by a teen disguised in a black burka. Would-be killer Knowah Ferguson was from Ontario, had no previous criminal record, and was promised $200,000 for the hit.

He planned to shoot Ryan in the food court as the target sat next to a member of the United Nations gang, who had arranged the hit on Ryan. He has not been identified. Ferguson lifted the gun to the back of Ryan's head and the UN member leans away, but nothing fired. Ryan can be seen swinging his right arm up behind his head to swat the gun away.

Adam Richard Pearson had fled Canada and was living in Minnesota under an assumed identity.

Zindashti associate Asan worked closely with Ryan to plan the assassinations, sending the location and photos of the targets, in addition to coordinating payment details. Ryan also recruited Canadian national and Hells Angels affiliate Adam Richard Pearson to carry out the murders.

Ryan and Pearson are currently incarcerated in Canada on unrelated offenses. Ryan is awaiting trial on drugs and weapons charges. Canadian authorities allege he was involved in an international drug-smuggling operation.

Pearson pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of a man in Alberta and was sentenced last year to 8 years in prison. Zindashti currently resides in Iran.

Double Murder Plot in Maryland

As alleged in the indictment, between December 2020 and January 2021, Zindashti and Ryan communicated about “jobs,” “equipment,” “tools” and plans to “make some money.” In January 2021, they discussed a job in the United States, with Ryan noting that doing a job in the United States was challenging, but that he “might have someone to do it.” That same day he messaged Pearson about a “job” in Maryland.

Pearson stated, “Shooting is probably the easiest thing for them,” and that he was “on it.” Ryan recommended, “2 guys go with proper equipment.” Pearson said he would encourage the recruits for the job to “shoot [the victim] in the head a lot [to] make an example” and that he would tell them “We gotta erase his head from his torso.”

The intended victims of this plot, who at the time resided in Maryland, had previously fled to the United States after one of them defected from Iran.

On or about Jan. 30, 2021, Zindashti messaged Ryan on SkyECC seeking an update on the job.

Ryan responded that he was getting “things in order” and would need money. A few days later, Zindashti told Ryan that Zindashti’s organization was ready to move forward.

Zindashti and Ryan then agreed on a $350,000 payment for the “job,” in addition to $20,000 to cover expenses.

After Zindashti introduced Ryan to Co-Conspirator 1, Ryan responded: “We have a 4-man team ready.”

Over the days that followed, Ryan and Co-Conspirator 1 continued to correspond on SkyECC about the plot. Specifically, Co-Conspirator 1 sent Ryan information about the would-be victims, including their photographs and images of a map that highlighted the victims’ known addresses.

In or around March 8, 2021, Co-Conspirator 1 facilitated a $20,000 payment to Ryan to cover travel expenses associated with the plot.

All three of the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.

Pearson is also charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a fugitive from justice and one count of possession of a firearm by an alien unlawfully in the United States. He was living illegally in Minnesota at the time.

Zindashti Drug Cartel

In 2023, The Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) made a criminal Iran’s leading drug lord, Iran International revealed. Information obtained by Iran International showed how Naji Sharifi-Zindashti and his cartel now dominated the narcotics trade thanks to the support of the government militia.

His rise comes despite having killed a prison guard in Iran and fleeing abroad, only to return with impunity.

Sharifi-Zindashti and his accomplices, dubbed “The Friends’ Club” have used the IRGC’s vast reach and control over transit routes and logistics to gain the upper hand in Iran's drug market, according to sources.

The Club comprises senior IRGC officials and high-ranking members of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council as well as managers from Tehran Municipality and members of parliament.

Sharifi-Zindashti not only pays bribes but also supplies opium and heroin for the personal consumption of many of these senior officials. According to the sources, Sharifi-Zindashti’s gangs traffic more than 20% of drugs distributed across Iran and about 35% of the drugs pushed in the capital Tehran.

The narcotics that are confiscated and destroyed as part of the Islamic Republic’s regular war on drugs mostly belong to rival gangs.

Iranian police arrested Zindashti in 1996 for a drug deal. Sentenced to death on drug-related charges, Zindashti along with an accomplice killed a guard during transfer to the court to testify in another case. Zindashti fled to Turkey, where he established a drug and human trafficking cartel.

In 2018 some of the members of the group and Zindashti himself were arrested in Turkey on suspicion of assassinating Saeed Karimian, the founder and head of Gem TV, and other killings related to drug trafficking. They were eventually freed, reportedly as a result of lobbying, bribery, and lack of adequate evidence.

That same year, his 21-year-old daughter was shot to death in her SUV in Istanbul, Turkey.

After his release, Zindashti returned to Iran and despite his convictions for drug trafficking and the killing of a prison guard in the past, Zindashti led a free life in Iran. In December 2022, he was honored during a ceremony by Iran’s Education Ministry as one of the members of the Charity for School Constructions. He is a benefactor and CEO of Zindashti Star Charitable Institute, constructing shopping malls and schools, yet also a drug lord with links to regime insiders.

OFAC Designations

Concurrent with today’s indictment, the Treasury Department took action against Zindashti’s criminal network that targets Iranian dissidents and opposition activists for kidnapping and assassination at the direction of the Iranian regime. 

According to today’s designations, Zindashti and several of his key associates are prohibited from engaging in any transaction or dealing involving a U.S. person or occurring in the United States.

Iran-based narco-trafficker Zindashti and his network are intertwined with Iran’s transnational repression efforts to silence and intimidate dissidents, former insiders, and other perceived opponents by carrying out assassinations and kidnappings under the direction of the MOIS across multiple continents. Iranian security forces protect Zindashti and his criminal empire, enabling Zindashti to thrive in the country’s drug market and live a life of luxury while his network exports the regime’s repression, carrying out heinous operations on the government’s behalf.

Zindashti’s network has been linked to murders in several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Canada, and Türkiye.

Iranian Assassination Network

Zindashti has previously cooperated with the MOIS to target regime dissidents. In 2020, as part of an MOIS-sponsored operation, Habib Chaab, a leader of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), was abducted in Türkiye by Zindashti’s men.

Chaab was then smuggled into Iran where he was imprisoned, tortured, forced to confess under duress, and ultimately convicted of “corruption on earth” following a trial that lacked fair-trial guarantees. Iranian authorities executed Chaab in May 2023.

In 2019, the MOIS used Zindashti and his men to assassinate former Iranian cybersecurity official turned regime critic Mas’ud Vardanjani (Vardanjani) in Istanbul.

“To those in Iran who plot murders on U.S. soil and the criminal actors who work with them, let today’s charges send a clear message: the Department of Justice will pursue you as long as it takes – and wherever you are – and deliver justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

“As alleged, Mr. Zindashti and his team of gunmen, including a Minnesota resident, used an encrypted messaging service to orchestrate an assassination plot against two individuals,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger for the District of Minnesota.

“Thanks to the skilled work of federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents, this murder-for-hire conspiracy was disrupted and the defendants will face justice.”

“Today’s charges show a pattern of Iranian groups trying to murder U.S. residents on U.S. soil,” said Assistant Director Suzanne Turner of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “Mr. Zindashti and his accomplices’ alleged plot is reprehensible, and the FBI will not tolerate such acts against U.S. residents, and we will continue to pursue these individuals until they are brought to the U.S. to face justice.”
Sources DOJ, OFAC, BBC, Iran Intl. CBC, CBC


  1. I mean I guess that's why those 2 young men in BC killed that man in Dubai

    1. Nope not really.

    2. Alexander Clapp writing for the New Republic has an excellent article about Zindashti and the murder in Dubai titled the “Ghost Ship” - not sure if it’s allowed, but I’ll drop the link below for more context on the milieu of heroin traffickers that Zindashti comes from.

    3. Links are very appreciated. Thx

    4. 3:57 Thank you for the link. Damn what a story, dangerous men roaming around. Cartels chopping each other up for peanuts is the real crime if you read this story.

    5. 3:57 thanks for sharing the link


    Background. Surprised to see him pop up here. Both gangs and police have been trying to get him out the way for a decade but the gangs can never keep up with the Hell's Angels resources and generally Canadian police are corrupt and incompetent.

  3. Fascinating stuff

  4. This is what I don't understand about religious folks, they have no problem ordering hits. I guess, since they're "good" religious people, it will all be forgiven in the end.

  5. The Wolfpac just took a major L

  6. The masters are free and their cheap puppets go to jail. 1% of brain

  7. Co-Conspirator 1 was the weak link.

    An Iranian architect told me that his entire country including himself lie, cheat and are corrupt at various levels. Mind you Persian women are fashionable and have superb rhinoplasty 🐽.

    Canadian girl💋

  8. Could’ve sourced a primo out of STX for 10% of that haha

  9. Curtis Allen Olson and Dustin Smith leaders of Vancouver HA


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