Bob Steinberg of Winnipeg was in town for the Boston Marathon. Showing the lady his ID, she handed him his race packet. In line behind him would come 20,000 people. He was the first in line at the Hynes Convention Center to pick up his shirt number for the event. “I ran the marathon in 2011 but took a year off and watched it on my treadmill last year,” said Steinberg, 62. “Running this marathon is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.”
Steinberg didn’t know that he was hours away from being another person connected with the worst tragedy in America since 9/11.
It was a chilly April day and time for the annual running of the Boston Marathon. Held the third Saturday every April, the event in Bean Town is the oldest, continuously held marathon in the US. People travel from remote spots on the globe to this city on the ocean to stroke their ego, catch up with friends or simply put themselves in a position to say, “I was there.”
April 15, 2013, was slightly different. It was a day when, for some, time stood still, and a day when for others the world took a step sideways. People that never knew each other before the starting gun found their lives inexplicably linked for the reminder of the their days. Lives were ended, relationships stopped, careers moved forward.
Within weeks, a US congressman would decide to travel to Russia to investigate for himself, one man would be killed in a torrent of gunshots. Another would be found in a tarp covered boat by a man stepping out for a smoke break. People that floated around the periphery of the alleged bombers would find themselves targeted by an FBI investigation, two people would be deported, a prominent New York Attorney would see his career rise even further and parents would show support for their children.
As the investigation continued, armchair sleuths sitting in such varied places as American Samoa and Kansas City, Kansas would start to notice discrepancies in the official FBI story. They would raise questions that the authorities were unable, or unwilling, to answer.
Underneath the questions were the people involved, the individuals in this drama that touched Boston and the globe. As people in The Bay State moved on with their lives and spring turned into summer which turned into fall, the bombing would stay etched in the remote corners of their thoughts. Always there to surface when a memory was triggered or a friend would bring it up. But still the memory stayed buried,just under the veneer of life as usual. Except for many that were there that day, life will never be routine again.
For others, the day will always be foremost in their thoughts. This is the story of just a few of those people involved at the epicenter of the worst tragedy to happen in America since 9/11.
Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev are the two brothers suspected in pulling off the April 2013 bombing during the Boston Marathon. Officials have said three people were killed and as many as 264 others were injured.
Tamerlan was seven years older than Dzhokhar and both were born in the former Soviet Union. Tamerlan had a long history of involvement connected with Muslim groups and some sources say that his strong convictions were behind the beating he gave one of his girlfriends when she refused to change to traditional Muslim garb. Tamerlan was never prosecuted for that and the charges were eventually dismissed.
Besides allegedly being one of the bombers in April 2013, Tamerlan was also accused of being the gunman in the shooting of a campus policeman at MIT. Audio tapes, which an MIT dispatcher posted online, said an officer responding to the initial call described the shooter as being a “…black male.”
Tamerlan was shot early in the morning of April 19, 2013, in Watertown, a Boston suburb. The key details remain unclear and there is some confusion as to who-did-what-when. According to police, Tamerlan’s younger brother, Dzhokhar, ran him over with an SUV and dragged him 20 feet. Emergency room doctors told the Boston Herald that it did not appear that Tamerlan had been run over. An eyewitness told reporters that Tamerlan had been struck by a police SUV before being shot several times.
Dzhokhar was born in July 1993 in Kyrgyzstan. He emigrated with his family to Russia and then to the US when he was 8. Settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dzhokhar became a naturalized US citizen on September 11, 2012, while a student in college.
His friends in college described Dzhokhar as being apolitical and were shocked when they learned about the accusations. Dzhokhar spoke flawless English and was well liked among the student body. According to reports released by the Boston Police Department, Dzhokhar returned to his dorm room after the bombing and stayed there until April 18 when the FBI publicized his picture. His friends say that for the three days between the bombing and the release of his likeness, Dzhokhar used the school’s gym, slept in his dorm room and attended several parties in off-campus housing. He looked completely relaxed according to friends that saw him during those three days.
Following the April 15 bombing, FBI agents arrived on Todashev’s apartment looking for a terrorist. The same officials had been in contact with the young Chechynan for about a month before shooting him during an interrogation in May.
Now, nine months after Todashev’s killing, the government still has not explained how a potential witness in the Boston Marathon bombing could be killed during an interrogation by six agents. Close friends and family members of Todashev have told reporters that they were intimidated and pressured when FBI agents talked with them.
FBI agents also interrogated Ashurmamad Miraliev, a friend of Todashev’s, as well. Agents detained him for questioning about his connection to Tsarnaev and the Boston bombing as well as a triple-murder in Waltham. Blatantly denied his right to have an attorney present, Miraliev was jailed and then deported to Tajikistan.
Another friend of Todashev’s, Khusen Taramov, was kept from re-entering the US after he attended Todashev’s funeral in Chechnya. The Gestapo tactics of the agents show the extent to which they were willing to go to suppress anyone who might have the knowledge to challenge the official story of how Todashev died.
Both Federal and state-level law enforcement officials have worked to squelch any knowledge about Todashev’s death. They have repeatedly refused to release the autopsy report and have stonewalled an investigation initiated by the American Civlil Liberties Union. None of the police and federal agencies contacted for this story have responded to requests for comments.
The Washington Post on March 10 posted an editorial about Todashev’s death. With many conspiracy theories circulating on the Internet, mainstream media is being forced to revisit a story they had long put on the back shelf. In response to many of the articles coming out, the FBI and Florida state attorney are hoping to put conspiracy theories to sleep.
Todashev’s girlfriend, Tatiana Gruzdeva, was pressured by investigators in their attempt to connect Todashev to a triple-murder in Waltham. When the 19-year old kept insisting she didn’t know anything, she was detained by ICE, without an attorney, and threatened to be sent packing to her native Moldovia. Gruzdeva subsequently gave an interview to Boston magazine and again, officials picked her up and this time she was deported.
Massachusetts Congressman William Keating has not been happy with the FBI’s investigation. Keating, a Cape Cod Democrat, sent a three-page letter to James Comey two days after Comey was confirmed by the Senate to replace Robert Mueller as director of the FBI.
Keating pointed out to Comey that unanswered questions still remain. Especially a sore point for the congressman was the “inadequate information-sharing and restrictive investigative” guidelines and procedures. Keating was also disturbed by the bureau’s failure to follow up on suspicious activities and travels of individuals inside the US.
Keating went on to list seven questions to which he demanded answers. Questions about what the FBI knew about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the dead bombing suspect and why the bureau had not shared its information with other law enforcement agencies.
Tired of being stonewalled by the FBI, Keating went to Russia in May 2013 to conduct his own investigation. The Russian Federal Security Service gave him a detailed message dating from March 2011 which the Russian version of the FBI had already provided to its American counterpart. Keating mentioned this in his letter to Comey and Comey continued to ignore the congressman’s request for information.
Bukh, attorney for alleged Boston Marathon conspirator, Azamat Tazhayakov, has also represented Russian cyber criminals and international hackers. As Bukh met with his clients, he became aware of the potential for bitcoins in his law firm. Listening to his clients talk about their experiences with the currency, Bukh’s interest was ignited. As an attorney representing high-tech cyberhackers, Bukh was intrigued by the online-based currency. The ability to protect client confidentiality was a side benefit which led to the decision.
Bukh says that using bitcoins doesn’t put him or his firm at any more risk than accepting cash. “In my field, people want to keep things as hush, hush as possible,” Bukh says. “I don’t see a downside, it is traded on public exchanges.”
Bukh, in addition to Tazhayakov, has also represented Russian digital pickpockets and international hackers, like Igor Klopov, Oleg Nikolaenko, Sergey Tsurikov, Dmitry Naskovets, Dmitry Smilyanets, Vlad Horohorin, and a host of others.
A partial reading of his client list, and their accomplishments, is like reading the names of the recent inductees into a Criminal Hall of Fame.
Igor Klopov, targeted Forbes 400 individuals including a close friend of former President George W. Bush; Oleg Nikolaenko, dubbed “King of Spam” by the FBI. Nikolaenko was responsible for one-third of the world’s spam before being arrested in 2009.
Sergey Tsurikov led a ring that hacked into RSB ATM’s and walked away with a cool $9.5 million dollars over a twelve-hour period; Dmitry Naskovets ran a website that was an online garage sale for identify thieves. Designed to bypass the normal security measures that banks and businesses have, Naskovets helped over 2,000 hackers swipe millions of dollars.
Dmitry Smilyanets, most widely known as the founder of a championship electronic gaming team called Moscow 5, traveled the world for competitions. Smilyanets was able to steal over 130 million credit cards. Finally, Vlad Horohorin, who was described by the US Secret Service as one of its five most wanted cyber criminals globally.
Bukh’s success with these clients? While collectively they were facing hundreds of years in prison, most received sentences of less than ten years. One got probation.
Dzhokhar’s trial is scheduled to begin November 3. In about four weeks, people will start moving back towards Boston for the next marathon. Steinberg, who was 350 yards from the finish line when the first explosion happened, has not decided if he will return or not.
By Jerry Nelson