Robel Phillipos has been identified as the American student arrested on Wednesday in the Boston Marathon bombings alongside Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev and charged with making false statements to police and obstructing justice in a terrorism investigation.
Robel Phillipos, 19, is charged with knowingly and willfully making false statements to investigators.
According to the FBI, three friends and schoolmates of detained Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were arrested and charged Wednesday with conspiracy to obstruct justice for throwing away belongings of the latter and lying to investigators.
Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both 19 and of New Bedford, and Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge appeared at the U.S. District Court in Boston where a federal magistrate read them the charges and their rights. The three are former students of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev also studied.
According to an FBI affidavit recounting the charges, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, who are Kazakhs holding expired student visas, and Robel Phillipos took the laptop and backpack of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from his dorm room on April 18. At the time, the FBI released photos of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, as suspects in the April 15 bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.
Dias Kadyrbayev texted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev joking that he looked like the suspects aired on TV and he replied by texting “LOL” and telling them to go to his room and get whatever they want.
The affidavit cited Robel Phillipos’ testimony to investigators that Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev freaked out upon returning to their apartment in New Bedford as the Tsarnaevs were named suspects.
The three decided to dispose of the backpack, which contained empty fireworks shells believed used by the suspects in making the improvised explosives that remotely detonated near the Boston Marathon finish line. They thought doing so would keep Dzhokhar Tsarnaev out of trouble.
Investigators later found and recovered the backpack and its contents in a landfill after getting a tip.
The affidavit said Dias Kadyrbayev knew Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was involved in the marathon bombings.
Robel Phillipos, for his part, initially told investigators he never went to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room. In a later interview, he admitted going to the dorm room and getting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s laptop and backpack.
The charges could meet Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev each a 5-year sentence and $250,000 fine if found guilty.
Robel Philippos faces an 8-year sentence and the same amount of fine. The next hearing on the Kazakhs is on May 14 while Robel Phillipos’ next hearing will be on Monday, May 6.