An indictment unsealed in New York Thursday charged two Iranian nationals for their alleged involvement in a "cyber-enabled campaign to intimidate and influence American voters, and otherwise undermine voter confidence and sow discord, in connection with the 2020 U.S. presidential election," according to a Department of Justice (DoJ) press release.
Seyyed Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, Iranian nationals, were indicted by a grand jury in Manhattan federal court this week. The indictment claims Kazemi and Kashian obtained voter information from one state website while attempting to access others. The duo posed as a "group of Proud Boys volunteers" and created bogus videos showing a person hacking state voter websites to create fake absentee ballots. The video was widely distributed ahead of the 2020 presidential election to Republican members of the House and Senate, Trump administration officials, and Trump's re-election campaign.
Both men are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit cyber fraud and abuse, intimidate voters and transmit interstate threats.
"This indictment details how two Iran-based actors waged a targeted, coordinated campaign to erode confidence in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system and to sow discord among Americans," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the DoJ's National Security Division.
"The allegations illustrate how foreign disinformation campaigns operate and seek to influence the American public. The Department is committed to exposing and disrupting malign foreign influence efforts using all available tools, including criminal charges," Olsen said.
"As alleged, Kazemi and Kashian were part of a coordinated conspiracy in which Iranian hackers sought to undermine faith and confidence in the U.S. presidential election," said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York.
"Working with others, Kazemi and Kashian accessed voter information from at least one state's voter database, threatened U.S. voters via email, and even disseminated a fictitious video that purported to depict actors fabricating overseas ballots. The United States will never tolerate any foreign actors' attempts to undermine our free and democratic elections. As a result of the charges unsealed today, and the concurrent efforts of our U.S. government partners, Kazemi and Kashian will forever look over their shoulders as we strive to bring them to justice," Williams said.
The suspects are at large, and the DoJ's Rewards for Justice Program offers $10 million for their whereabouts. Given that Kazemi and Kashian are likely in Iran, and both countries have poor relations, it's unlikely the pair will be brought to justice.
DOJ officials briefed reporters Thursday that the duo didn't influence the election nor was successful in changing any votes.