7 things we know about the college students accused of helping Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Keith Wagstaff
The Week
A courtroom sketch of defendants Dias Kadyrbayev (left) and Azamat Tazhayakov, friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Details are trickling in about the three 19-year-old men arrested for allegedly getting rid of evidence in the Boston bombing suspect's dorm room

On Wednesday, law enforcement officials arrested three young men in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings: Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev, and Robel Phillipos, all 19. The three became friends with bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after enrolling at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth in the fall of 2011.

According to federal prosecutors, the three realized that Tsarnaev was one of the suspects pictured in photos released by authorities, and then threw away Dzhokhar's backpack containing empty fireworks and a laptop computer, which were discovered by police a week later. 

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By almost every account, all three of these young men, just like Tsarnaev, seemed like normal college kids before the bombings. Here is what we know about them so far:

1. They were slackers who looked up to Dzhokhar
"They all sort of idolized Jahar," an unidentified woman who had a two-week fling with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told Mother Jones. She claims that Tsarnaev was the most social of the four and definitely the leader of the group. According to her, they spent a lot of time just smoking pot and listening to music, and, like many college kids, were "goofy, kind of lackadaisical, not interested in their studies."

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2. Two of them are from Kazakhstan
Both Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are from Kazakhstan. They were in the United States on student visas, which, according to CNN.com, Kadyrbayev had violated by missing too many classes. Phillipos is an American citizen of Ethiopian origin.

3. They face very serious charges
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev both face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 penalty for obstruction of justice. Phillipos, who is charged with lying to federal investigators, faces up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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4. They texted with each other
Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev the night authorities released photos of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects to tell him that he looked like one of them. Three things Tsarnaev texted back:

"you better not text me"
"come to my room and take whatever you want"

Kadyrbayev interpreted them as jokes, according to the criminal complaints filed against him.

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5. Kadyrbayev lied about going to MIT
Kadyrbayev listed himself as an engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Russian social-networking site VK. MIT denies that he was ever a student there, according to USA Today. In fact, he had dropped out of Umass Dartmouth by the time of the bombings.

6. Kadyrbayev loved pop culture and fancy cars
On Kadyrbayev's profile on Russian social-networking site VK, he is wearing an Iron Man mask and posts tracks by hip-hop stars such as Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz. He also posted many photos of BMWs — one of which he owned, with the license plate "TERRORISTA #1." Kadyrbayev's lawyer says it's a joking reference to his penchant for late-night partying, not a political statement, according to the Associated Press.

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7. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev probably had money
Citing Kadyrbayev's BMW and photos of him smiling on beaches in Fort Lauderdale and Dubai, The New York Times concludes that Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev came from wealthy families. Tazhayakov listed Atyrau, a wealthy oil city on the Ural River, as his hometown on Facebook.

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