Man indicted for obstructing investigation into fires at Jewish-affiliated institutions

An indictment was unsealed charging a Massachusetts man for allegedly obstructing an investigation into fires set at Jewish-affiliated institutions in Arlington, Needham and Chelsea, Mass. in May 2019.

Alexander Giannakakis, 35, formerly of Quincy, Mass., was arrested by Swedish authorities in a Stockholm suburb, at the request of the United States. Giannakakis was indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston for making false statements in a matter involving domestic terrorism; falsifying, concealing and covering up a material fact in a matter involving domestic terrorism by trick, scheme and device; concealing records in a federal investigation; tampering with documents and objects; and tampering with an official proceeding. The United States plans to seek his extradition to face charges in Boston.

 United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins said, “Today’s arrest in Stockholm came about as a result of a close partnership with our state, local, federal and international law enforcement partners – specifically our Swedish counterparts. International cooperation is critical to our efforts to get justice and accountability for our victims here in Massachusetts.”  

“On behalf of FBI Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, I’d like to thank the Swedish Security Service for their assistance in helping us bring justice to the citizens who have been victimized,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “The FBI’s strong relationship and close coordination with them was critical to the success of this investigation.”

According to the indictment, in and around February 2020, Giannakakis’s younger brother became the prime suspect in an investigation into four fires that had been set at Jewish-related institutions in the Boston area: the first during the evening of May 11, 2019 at a Chabad Center in Arlington; the second at the same location during the evening of May 16, 2019; the third at a Chabad Center in Needham; and the fourth during the evening of May 26, 2019 at Jewish-affiliated business in Chelsea.

Giannakakis’s younger brother was hospitalized and in a coma since November 2019, approximately six months after the fourth fire. He remained in a coma until his death.

Investigators learned that Giannakakis had left the United States allegedly with his younger brother’s electronic devices and papers, and brought them to Sweden. In March 2020 Giannakakis re-entered the United States with his brother’s electronics. When Giannakakis was in Quincy, Mass., he was asked by investigators about his younger brother’s connection to the fires and whether the family had a storage unit. Giannakakis allegedly told investigators that his parents had a storage unit at a nearby storage facility, and later admitted that he maintained and controlled access to it.  Following a search of the storage unit, Giannakakis was also asked where else his brother might have kept property. Giannakakis allegedly responded that there were no other locations.

The indictment further alleges that Giannakakis knew that these statements and actions were intentionally false and misleading, as the night before he had visited both the storage unit and a second storage unit at the same facility, which contained items belonging to his younger brother, including t-shirts with a swastika depicted on the front, a box with his brother’s name on it, his brother’s passport, a notebook with his brother’s name on it and a swastika drawn inside, and a black backpack containing a bottle of cyanide. Giannakakis had allegedly leased the second storage unit himself and listed his younger brother as an authorized user. It is alleged that Giannakakis deliberately lied about the second storage unit and concealed it from investigators to prevent them from seizing his brother’s property.  

Finally, the indictment alleges that on March 22, 2020, Giannakakis went to the second storage unit and removed items belonging to his younger brother that were relevant and material to the ongoing arson investigation, including the backpack and the bottle of cyanide. Later that evening, Giannakakis departed the United States for Sweden and has not returned since. 

The charges of making false statements in a matter involving domestic terrorism and falsifying, concealing, and covering up a material fact in a matter involving domestic terrorism by trick, scheme, and device each provide for a sentence of up to eight years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charges of concealing records in a federal investigation, tampering with documents and objects, and tampering with an official proceeding each provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Chief Juliann Flaherty of the Arlington Police Department; Chief John Schlittler of the Needham Police Department; Chief Brian Kyes of the Chelsea Police Department; Chief Paul Keenan of the Quincy  Police Department; Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; and State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey made the announcement today.  Substantial assistance was provided by the Swedish law enforcement authorities including the Swedish Security Service, as well as the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the FBI Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott L. Garland, Acting Chief of Rollins’ National Security Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason A. Casey and John McNeil, also with Rollins’ Criminal Division.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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