Kickbacks for Tsarnaev on luxury car repairs?April 28, 2013
During an interview with CNN last week, auto mechanic Gilberto Junior discussed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s behavior between the time of the Boston Marathon bombing and before his capture. The interview offered some clues on Dhokhar Tsarnaev’s financial situation. H/t Lea Savoy:
The reference to the $900 Louis Vuitton shoes, which Junior repeated in interviews with other news outlets, raised a lot of eyebrows, but the bigger question—about why Dzhokhar was shuttling friends back and forth for repair work at Junior’s shop in the first place—has received scant attention.
One of the websites that did pick up on it, The Slate, ran the headline, “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev May Have Had Two Shady Side Businesses. Only One Involves Pot,” elaborating:
… But perhaps the more puzzling nugget in the [Boston] Globe piece is what the paper calls his “mysterious side enterprise involving repairing damaged cars”:
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev regularly brought cars to Junior’s Auto Body, a well-worn shop on the Cambridge-Somerville line, on a road lined with scrap metal and auto repair garages.
Why a 19-year-old college student was bringing cars in for work for people he said were friends remains unclear, though his father had worked as a garage mechanic before he returned to the family’s native Russia. The shop owner, Gilberto Junior, said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sometimes accompanied friends to the shop, riding in the passenger’s seat. Often, the friends told Junior they were students at MIT, he said…
It is legal for Junior to have paid possible commission fees to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for legitimate referrals. But Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may have been skirting the law if he received cash for the referrals and failed to report it on income tax returns or student financial aid applications. (It may be worth noting that encouraging unnecessary repairs is common scam reported by consumer advocates.)
But no large amounts of money appear to have changed hands. Junior told the Boston Globe that “I don’t think he ever brought any friends in here that spent more than $500.” These were minor repairs like removing dents after fender benders. Tsarnaev’s final visit to Junior’s auto body shop provides an example of the type of work involved:
Two weeks ago, said 44-year-old Gilberto Junior, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had brought in a white Mercedes 1967 station wagon to have the damaged rear bumper repaired. He said it belonged to his girlfriend.
That was not unusual: Tsarnaev often brought in cars for wealthy friends from Boston University and MIT, Junior said, and always paid in cash.
The bigger question involves the identity of Tsaranaev’s cash-paying “friends.” Junior described their characteristics to the Philadelphia Metro:
“I’d say five or six friends,” he said. “Last month I asked them where they were from, and they said from Turkey. All the friends; I said ‘You don’t look Turkish, and (Tsarnaev) said, “I was born in Russia but I was living in Turkey.’ The others are from Turkey. They all drive nice cars, they all dress nice. Louis Vuitton shoes that probably cost $800. They drive Porches and the Range Rovers,” Junior said, adding that the men all had “heavy accents.”
“I don’t speak perfect English, but they had heavy accents.”
Falsely describing themselves as Turkish suggests that Tsarnaev’s associates were attempting to conceal their true national origin, but the reason for this possible deception is unknown.
How Dzhokhar Tsarnaev met these self-purported MIT or BU students is unclear (although we have begun to learn more about the other members of the Islamic Society of Boston mosque that the Tsarnaev brothers attended in Cambridge). It’s not unusual for students to flaunt cars on American campuses, but in a financial investigation, it’s important to follow where the trail of large amounts of money leads—chasing after nickels and dimes will only get you so far.
The possible kickback scheme is worth further scrutiny by authorities, but the identity of the unnamed customers and the source of their wealth is equally if not more important.