The US Justice Department on Tuesday announced charges against four Iranian intelligence agents and a co-conspirator living in the US who allegedly plotted to kidnap a journalist and human rights activist from Brooklyn for criticizing their country's regime.

Court documents quoted by NBC News allege that Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, 50, Mahmoud Khazein, 42; Kiya Sadeghi, 35; and Omid Noori, 45, are accused of conspiring to kidnap and bring the victim to Iran after the individual had been working to sway public opinion both in the country and globally to change the current regime's laws and practices.

"This is not some far-fetched movie plot. We allege a group, backed by the Iranian government, conspired to kidnap a U.S. based journalist here on our soil and forcibly return her to Iran. Not on our watch," said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney.

"FBI special agents and analysts will continue to aggressively hunt for foreign operatives who attempt illegal action inside our borders or against our citizens," he added.

A fifth man, Niloufar Bahadorifar, is accused of providing financial support. Bahadorifar has been living in California, where he was arrested July 1 and awaits arraignment. The four others accused in the plot are based in Iran, and remain at large.

The author was not named in court documents, but a law enforcement official familiar with the case identified her as Masih Alinejad, who in 2020 wrote in the Washington Post that she learned of the Iranian regime's intention to kidnap her.

US Attorney Audrey Strauss said that the victim's fate "would have been uncertain at best" had the alleged conspirators enacted their plan.

Prosecutors say the Iranian government directed followers to kidnap the author to get her back to Iran. Farahani is an Iranian intelligence official who lives in Iran and Khazein, Sadeghi and Noori are Iranian intelligence assets who work for him, the Justice Department said, according to NBC News.

The charging documents say that the men hired private investigators, by misrepresenting who they were and what they wanted, to surveil the author in Brooklyn during 2020 and 2021. Prosecutors said Farahni's intelligence network also researched how to get the author out of New York.

One of the four researched a service offering "military-style speedboats for self-operated maritime evacuation out of New York City, and maritime travel from New York to Venezuela, a country whose de facto government has friendly relations with Iran," the Justice Department said.