Khairullozhon Matanov, Friend of Alleged Marathon Bombers, Arrested For Impeding Investigation

Officials say the suspect had dinner with the Tsarnaev brothers the same night as the attack.

A Quincy man federal officials say was close friends with the two brothers accused of setting off a pair of bombs at the Boston Marathon last year has been arrested and charged with obstructing the FBI’s investigation in the days after the attack.

Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, a cab driver who has been living in the United States since 2010, will be in U.S. District Court in Boston on Friday for an initial appearance, officials said.

According to an indictment unsealed Friday morning, Matanov is being charged with with one count of destroying, altering, and falsifying records, documents, and tangible objects in a federal investigation—specifically information on his computer—and three counts of making materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements in a federal terrorism investigation.

Officials said in a statement that when photos of the alleged suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were released to the public, Matanov tried to distance himself from his friends, knowing that the FBI would want to speak with him. “Matanov allegedly then took a series of steps to impede the FBI’s investigation into the extent of his friendship, contact, and communication with the suspected bombers, and the fact that he shared the suspected bombers’ philosophical justification for violence. In addition to deleting information from his computer, Matanov made a number of false statements to federal investigators,” according to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office.

Matanov is not being charged with participating or corroborating in the attack, or for knowing about the bombings prior to the tragic event. Court documents show that Matanov called Tamerlan just 40 minutes after he allegedly detonated explosives near the finish line on Monday, April 15, 2013, however. Matanov allegedly met with Tamerlan and his younger brother that day for dinner, where the three “discussed the bombings at the restaurant, and Tamerlan had said that he did not believe that Al Qa’ida was responsible because Al Qa’ida usually issues a statement accepting responsibility within two hours of an event, and had not made a statement about the bombing,” according to prosecutors.

There is no indication that Tamerlan took responsibility for the attacks during that conversation.

After they ate, the Tsarnaevs returned to Matanov’s house, according to details in the indictment. While at the house that night, documents show that a person described as a “witness” told Matanov that they hoped the marathon bombings weren’t carried out by Muslims. Matanov allegedly responded by saying that the bombings could have had a just reason, such as being done in the name of Islam, and that he would “support the bombings if the reason were just or the attack had been done by the Taliban, and that the victims had gone to paradise,” according to the witness referenced in the investigators’ report.

The report said:

In the days following the bombings…he continued to express support for the bombings, although later that week he said that maybe the bombings were wrong. He expressed sympathy for the victims’ families, although he continued to explain away the significance of the victims’ deaths on the ground that everyone must eventually die.

Two days after the bombings, officials claim Matanov continuously called Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, and met with the older brother at his apartment in Cambridge. On the third day, when news organizations and the FBI released photos of the alleged suspects, Matanov accessed the images and read stories about the release of the photos on various websites, before placing additional calls to Dzhokhar, but he did not get through to him.

From thereon after, realizing that “federal investigators were investigating the Tsarnaevs as the suspected Boston Marathon bombers,” and “would likely want to discuss with his friendship, contact, and communication” with Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, Matanov allegedly tried to discourage and impede that investigation by dodging officials, and deleting information and videos from his personal computer.

Matanov faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges, and eight years for each false statement count that was made to investigators. All four counts also carry a maximum of three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.