Three men have been charged over a $350,000 murder-for-hire plot targeting Iranian nationals who fled to the United States.
Naji Sharifi Zindashti, 49, who has ties to the Iranian government, is accused of recruiting Canadian nationals Damion Patrick John Ryan, 43, and Adam Richard Pearson, 29, to murder two Maryland residents.
The men allegedly used an encrypted messaging service called SkyECC from December 2020 through March 2021 to recruit individuals who would travel to the United States to carry out the murders.
They discussed at length the identities and locations of their targets, planned how to carry out the murders and negotiated payment for completion of the ‘job’ according to the indictment by the United States District Court of the District of Minnesota.
The would-be victims had previously fled to the United States after one of them defected from Iran.
While both Ryan and Pearson hailed from Canada, Pearson was living in Minnesota to escape murder charges in his home country. He was arrested in July 2021 and extradited the following year.
Two Canadians and one Iranian national (Naji Sharifi Zindashti, 49, pictured) have been charged over a murder-for-hire plot targeting Iranian nationals who fled to the United States
Local outlets in Iran have outlined Zindashti’s alleged connections to the government militia, which is said to support his drug cartel
In January 2021, the men discussed a job in the United States, with Ryan noting that it would be challenging, but that he ‘might have someone to do it.’
He messaged Pearson, a Hells Angels motorcycle gang member with a checkered criminal past, about a ‘job’ in Maryland.
Pearson stated, ‘shooting is probably easiest thing for them,’ and that he was ‘on it.’ Ryan advised ‘2 guys go with proper equipment.’
Pearson said he would encourage the recruits to shoot the prospective victim in the head, stating: ‘we gotta erase his head from his torso.’
Later that month, Zindashti messaged Ryan asking for an update. Ryan said he was getting ‘things in order’ and requested money.
A few days later, Zindashti told Ryan that his organization was ready to move forward with the plan.
Zindashti and Ryan agreed on a $350,000 payment in addition to $20,000 to cover expenses.
After Zindashti introduced Ryan to an individual identified in the indictment as Co-Conspirator 1, Ryan stated: ‘We have a 4 man team ready.’
The unnamed co-conspirator sent Ryan information about the would-be victims, including their pictures and a map showing their known address.
Co-Conspirator 1 also facilitated a $20,000 payment to Ryan to cover travel expenses.
Zindashti, Ryan and Pearson are charged with one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.
Pearson is also charged with possession of a firearm by a fugitive from justice as well as possession of a firearm by an alien unlawfully in the United States.
Zindashti currently resides in Iran, and local outlets have outlined his connections to the government militia, which allegedly supports his drug cartel.
The Iranian national allegedly recruited Canadians Damion Patrick John Ryan, 43, and Adam Richard Pearson, 29, in the scheme. Both men have extensive criminal records
The men have been charged with one count of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, with Pearson facing two additional charges related to possession of a firearm
In addition to paying bribes, sources say the 49-year-old supplies opium and heroin to senior officials in Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
An investigation by Iran International found that his gangs traffic more than 20 percent of the drugs distributed across the country and about 35 percent in the capital Tehran.
Both Canadian suspects are already in prison.
Ryan awaits trial for separate offenses in Manitoba. In February 2022, the 43-year-old was hiding out in a luxurious Ottawa home once owned by members of a Canadian criminal organization.
Police conducted a search and recovered a dozen illegal handguns, several high-capacity magazines, ammunition, and a device used to convert a semi-automatic pistol to fully automatic. Many weapons were loaded.
Ryan was charged with four firearms-related counts, one count of possession of a magazine for the purpose of trafficking and one of possession of ammunition for a dangerous purpose.
The three men spoke over an encrypted messaging app called SkyECC from December 2020 through March 2021 as they planned how to carry out the murders and negotiated payment for completion of the ‘job’
These were stacked on top of counts stemming from an investigation in 2018, where Ryan was one of 22 people charged in connection to international shipments of firearms and drugs.
The 43-year-old has an extensive criminal history spanning multiple provinces. In 2015, he was hit with drug trafficking charges in Ontario.
He pleaded guilty to two trafficking counts and one count of possession of stolen property in 2016 and sentenced to three months.
A decade earlier, in 2005, he was sentenced to five years in connection with a home invasion related to a marijuana-growing operation.
Pearson is awaiting court proceedings after being charged with first-degree murder in the death of Alberta man Cody Michaloski.
A Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for the 29-year-old in 2020. He was arrested by the FBI in Minneapolis in 2021 and extradited in February of the following year.