From left: Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. A photograph from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's page on VKontakt, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, appears to show him in Times Square. It is believed to be from November 2012. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said authorities knew of two trips by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to New York in 2012 but said he did not know whether those visits were related to any plot against Times Square.
Two of the three people newly arrested in the Boston Marathon investigation are Kazakh friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and one drove a BMW with a novelty license plate that said “Terrorista #1,” according to people who knew them.
The two were pictured in a 2012 photo with Tsarnaev in Times Square that was posted to VKontakt, the Russian equivalent of Facebook. Authorities say Tsarnaev and his brother, suspected in the marathon attack, discussed driving to New York and setting off more of their explosives there.
The Kazakh men, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, were charged Wednesday with conspiring to destroy or hide a laptop belonging to Tsarnaev and a backpack of his containing fireworks.
Another man, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Mass., was charged with lying to investigators. All three appeared in federal court in Boston Wednesday afternoon.
Both Kazakh men are 19 and were in the United States on student visas, the Justice Department said.
Stephen Troio, who said he lived on the same dorm floor as the two men during his freshman year in 2011, said that they showed “lack of emotion” and “lack of personality” and that nothing stood out about them but the BMW.
“They did have a lot of money,” Troio told NBC News. “He wrecked like three Beamers and then bought another one.”
Trevor Berry, 20, who took a calculus course with Tazhayakov, said the Kazakh was friendly with Tsarnaev and that the two could be spotted dining together on campus. “They were pretty close as far as I can tell,” he said.
Berry said that Tazhayakov was "much more quiet than Dzhokhar," but was once "really flustered" over a low grade he'd gotten in calculus class.
The two men were taken into custody over immigration violations last week. Kadyrbayev’s lawyer, Robert Stahl, told The Associated Press then that they were horrified by the marathon bombing.
“They can’t even fathom something like this from a kid who seemed to be a typical young college student,” he said.
The two Kazakhs lived at an apartment in New Bedford, Mass., near the campus of the University of Massachusetts’ Dartmouth campus, where Tsarnaev was a student. Last week, investigators scoured a landfill in New Bedford for items that might belong to Tsarnaev, including the laptop and receipts related to the purchase of fireworks.
A neighbor in New Bedford said Wednesday that the Kazakhs were quiet and polite, and would even help carrying groceries inside. They had parties, the neighbor said, including one that police were called to at 3 a.m.
Stahl told the AP that the two men did not see Tsarnaev in the days before or after the marathon attack.
The license plate was a joke gift from friends of Kadyrbayev’s friends, meant to refer to his late-night partying and not his political sentiments, Stahl told the AP. The license plate was pictured in Tsarnaev’s Twitter feed in March.
A Facebook page in the name of Azamat Tazhayakov lists him as a UMass-Dartmouth student and as a member of the Class of 2011 at a Kazakh school, Miras International School Astana. It lists his hometown as Atyrau, says he speaks Russian and lists Rihanna, Beyonce and Enimem as musicians he likes.
A Facebook page in the name of Dias Kadyrbayev shows him vacationing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and palling around with friends.
This story was originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 3:12 PM EDT