This story has been updated
Before he was accused Wednesday of lying to the FBI about his involvement with suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Robel Phillipos was a member of the Cambridge Kids’ Council, an organization that tries to improve the lives of the city’s youth.
Phillipos, now 19, and another Cambridge Kids’ Council member were singled out for being part of a community outreach program set up at a Cambridge apartment complex to “engage the wider city” on the group’s activities, according to the minutes of several meetings of the council in 2010 and 2011.
During a discussion of how to engage the community in a discussion of vital issues in November 2010, Phillipos said that the council should focus on parents. He emphasized that he "is very close with his mother and he would probably talk about this with her." He added, according to the minutes: "He knows that not all parents keep themselves as in-the-loop on these matters as his mother does, but he suggests that a teacher would also be a good person to go to."
The minutes showed that members of the Cambridge City Council and then-Mayor David Maher were present at the meeting. Maher and the council members could not immediately be reached for comment on whether they remembered Phillipos.
A year later, Phillipos met Tzarnaev at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, as well as Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov. Both Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were charged with obstructing justice in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Phillipos was charged with making false statements to federal investigators during a terrorism investigation.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday in Boston federal court, Phillipos was interviewed by the FBI on four occasions: April 19, April 20, April 25 and April 26.
During the first interview, Phillipos “concealed the fact that he” and the other two defendants “went to Tsarnaev’s dormitory room” on the night of April 18 – three days after the bombings, according to the criminal complaint.
In the second FBI interview, Phillipos initially said he didn’t remember going to Tsarnaev’s dorm room but then “changed his story and said that he did remember going to the door of Tsarnaev’s room” on April 18 to check out if the publicly released photos of the Boston bombing suspects “were really of Tsarnaev.”
He was also asked if Tsarnaev’s laptop and other items were removed from the dorm. He initially said he didn’t remember and then denied that he and the other suspects “entered the room at all.” Phillipos reiterated those statements during the third interview, according to the complaint.
But in the fourth FBI interview, Phillipos “eventually confessed that he had lied to agents during his previous interviews,” the complaint states.
Phillipos signed a written statement admitting that he, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov took a backpack out of Tsarnaev’s dorm room on April 18. Phillipos also allegedly wrote that he saw empty fireworks in the backpack.
The backpack was eventually found April 26 in a landfill in New Bedford, Mass., along with the fireworks and other items.
Phillipos is being represented by Cambridge-based attorney Derege Demissie.
After his client’s court appearance on Wednesday, Demissie did not respond to the charges, but pointed out that Phillipos was charged with lying and not obstructing justice.
“The only allegation he made is a misrepresentation,” Demissie said.
Kadrybayev and Tazhayakov are denying the charges against them.