Man with a loaded AK-47 is arrested after ‘lurking outside dissident Iranian journalist’s home’
An man armed with an AK-47 has been arrested in New York City after officials say he spent two days lurking outside a dissident Iranian journalist’s home.
Khalid Mehdiyev, 23, was found Thursday with the loaded assault rifle, a separate high-capacity magazine and more than $1,000 worth of cash hidden in a suitcase in his car, according to a federal complaint.
For two days prior, it says, he had been sitting in his gray Subaru Forester SUV on a Brooklyn street with an Illinois license plate for several hours, focusing on the home of dissident journalist Masih Alinejad.
During that time, federal officials say, he began acting suspiciously – ordering food to be delivered to his car, looking inside the window of the home and even attempting to open the front door.
He was eventually stopped by the NYPD on Thursday at around 3pm when he rolled through a stop sign. Cops at the time found he was driving without a license, and placed him under arrest.
It was only after that arrest that officers found the loaded AK-47 with a separate high-capacity magazine, 66 rounds of ammo and a suitcase full of cash.
Two other license plates from other states were also found, as was an expired employment authorization card from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Mehdiyev is now facing charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle, aggravated unlicensed operator and driving without a license in New York. He is also being charged with a federal weapons possession charge.
He is due back in Rye Criminal Court on August 2, as FBI and NYPD officials continue to investigate whether he was surveilling Alinejad’s home and, if so, whether he was acting alone.
Mehdiyev’s arrest comes almost exactly one year since Alinejad said Iranian officials were plotting to kidnap her and bring her back to the authoritarian country.
An armed man was found last week apparently surveilling Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad’s Brooklyn home. She is pictured here
Law enforcement officials say Khalid Mehdiyev, 23, was found Thursday with the loaded assault rifle, a separate high-capacity magazine and more than $1,000 worth of cash hidden in a suitcase in his car outside of Alinejad’s home
According to the criminal complaint, obtained by DailyMail.com, Mehdiyev first arrived on the Brooklyn street where Alinejad lives on July 27.
He was spotted returning on July 28, when he stayed in his car for several hours.
‘Mehdiyev behaved suspiciously during that time: among other things, he exited and entered the Subaru several times, ordered food to be delivered to the Subaru, approached the Residence, appeared to attempt to look inside the windows of the Residence and attempted to open the front door of the Residence,’ Special Agent David Kasse wrote in his report.
New York City cops finally caught him later that day when he rolled through a stop sign, Kasse explained, and discovered he was driving with a suspended license.
An ensuing search of the NYPD database revealed the Subaru was issued a parking ticket on July 23 on the same Brooklyn street, and Mehdiyev was taken into custody.
As cops searched his vehicle afterward, they found the gun, ammunition, cash, and other license plates along with documents listing him as a Yonkers, New York resident.
Meanwhile, at the NYPD precinct house in Brooklyn, Kasse alleges, Mehdiyev told police he had been staying in Yonkers, but the rent was too high there, and he was looking for a new place to live in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
He is said to have told the cops he only tried to open the front door of the house so he could knock on an inside door to ask if he could rent a room, but decided against it out of fear he might wake up a sleeping or sick resident. He said he figured he had cash on him so he could rent a hotel room.
Mehdiyev also reportedly told cops that he had no knowledge of the gun in the car — before cops even questioned him about it.
He later confessed, though, that the gun was his and that he had been in Brooklyn ‘because he was looking for someone.’
At that point, court documents say, Mehdiyev invoked his right to a lawyer and refused to answer any more questions.
DailyMail.com has reached out to his attorney, Agnes Fidelibus, and the Southern District of New York for further comment.
Alinejad made a name for herself speaking out against corruption in the Iranian government. Anti-government protesters are seen outside the Iranian Embassy in Berlin in January 2020
Pro-regime activists are seen in Tehran in January 2020, protesting against the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani by a US air strike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad
Mehdiyev’s arrest comes one year after officials revealed there was a plot to kidnap Alinejad, who has been critical of the Iranian regime, and bring her back to the country
But the arrest comes almost one year since Alinejad, 45, publicly revealed the FBI saved her from being kidnapped and taken to Tehran.
She had been told there was a scheme in place to kidnap her, and was taken to a safe house — but on July 13, she learned that four Iranian intelligence officers planned to snatch her from her house in Brooklyn and take her via speedboat to Venezuela.
From Venezuela – which has friendly relations with Tehran – she would be taken to Iran.
Part of the scheme allegedly involved hiring private investigators to conduct multiple days of surveillance, during which time she and members of her household were photographed and recorded on video at and around her Brooklyn home.
‘They told us that our house was not safe, we were under threat,’ she told Substack newsletter writer Bari Weiss last year.
‘I was joking. I said “Come on. I’m used to it, what’s new.”
‘Then they showed me photos of my stepson, my husband, my private life. Me coming out the house, every step. Me through the window.
‘They took photos of me watering my beautiful garden, my beautiful sunflowers.’
It was then that she was told that the Iranian intelligence agencies had hired a U.S. based private investigator to watch her.
She was moved to various safe houses, with the FBI trying various methods to confirm the identity of the plotters and even attempting to arrest them as they fled back to Iran.
Mahmoud Khazein (left) and Omid Noori (right) are among four Iranians charged in the kidnap plot
Kiya Sadeghi (left) is accused of being an asset working for the Iranian spy chief, Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani (right)
According to a federal indictment last year, the Iranians researched how to get Alinejad out of New York, with one of the four named defendants researching a service offering ‘military-style speedboats for self-operated maritime evacuation out of New York City, and maritime travel from New York to Venezuela.’
Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani is described in charging documents as the spy chief. He worked with Mahmoud Khazein and Omid Noori plus Kiya Sadeghi.
The four named defendants ‘monitored and planned to kidnap a US citizen of Iranian origin who has been critical of the regime’s autocracy, and to forcibly take their intended victim to Iran, where the victim’s fate would have been uncertain at best,’ the indictment read.
The four defendants all live in Iran, the prosecutors said, identifying one of them, Farahani, as an Iranian intelligence official and the three others as ‘Iranian intelligence assets.’
A fifth defendant, Niloufar Bahadorifar, accused of supporting the plot financially but not participating in the kidnapping conspiracy, was arrested in California.
The charging documents say the men hired private investigators, by misrepresenting who they were and what they wanted, to surveil the author in Brooklyn during 2020 and 2021.
Iranian officials, though, have denied the allegations.
Alinejad exposed corruption within Iran’s political system, which cost her her job. Iranian officials have denied the allegations of a plot to kidnap her. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is pictured here last year
Alinejad’s criticism of Iran
July 2018, The New York Times:
‘As a journalist in Iran, I often got into trouble exposing the regime’s mismanagement and corruption until, eventually, my press pass was revoked.
‘I was often threatened with arrest or worse for writing articles critical of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
‘Ultimately, I was forced to flee my homeland in 2009.’
July 2020, Voice of America:
‘I call on the leaders of European countries to join the U.S. in not only condemning Iran’s hostage-taking but also condemning its recent executions of prisoners.’
August 2020, The Washington Post:
‘The regime’s cruel treatment of women remains one of its biggest weaknesses, and my focus on related injustices explains why it remains so persistent in targeting me.’
Alinejad grew up in a poor, rural community in Iran but was an activist from an early age – spurred on by seeing her brother Ali enjoying his freedom, while she was denied the same rights.
‘I never had a clue about equality, discrimination, feminism,’ she told Weiss.
She later became a journalist, exposing corruption within Iran’s political system and then, when that cost her her job, becoming a columnist.
Still she criticized the government – likening Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president from 2005-13, to a dolphin trainer making the ‘animal’ public obey him for a piece of bread – until she was forced to flee the country, in 2009.
Alinejad now lives in New York City, has U.S. citizenship, and is married to a fellow Iranian-American journalist.
Her high-profile attacks on the Iranian government continued, even though she was aware of the risk.
In the aftermath of the alleged kidnapping plot, President Joe Biden’s then press secretary Jen Psaki condemned the attack.
‘We categorically condemn Iran’s dangerous and despicable reported plot to kidnap a U.S. citizen on US soil,’ Psaki said at the time.
‘We will forcefully defend U.S. citizens and U.S. interests.’
‘This is a threat to all Americans and all journalists. I want Biden to condemn that. This is America.’
But Alinejad said Biden, needed to be more forceful with his response.
‘It is an insult to all of us that a foreign country comes here and tries to kidnap a US citizen,’ she said last year.
‘This is a threat to all Americans and all journalists. I want Biden to condemn that. This is America.’