The Girlfriend Detention Method of Coercion

Remember Ibragim Todashev, the friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev the FBI shot with pathetically inconsistent explanation?

A woman claiming to be his live-in girlfriend, Tatiana Gruzdeva, of the time has spoken to the press for the first time. There’s a lot that’s interesting in the account, including that she appears to have come forward to draw attention to the arrest of a Tajik friend, Ashurmamad Miraliev, on Wednesday.

But I wanted to point to what appears to be her several month detention that appears to have been at least, in part, an attempt to coerce Todashev.

One day, the FBI called Todashev back to their office again. Gruzdeva went with him and waited in the lobby, she said. That’s when an agent she recognized approached her and asked to talk.

“And I already saw him a couple times so it was normal, so I told him, ‘I’m waiting for Ibragim,’” she told me. “And he said, ‘So what? It’s just going to be a couple minutes. He knows about it.’” So she went with him to an office. Another agent joined them, she said. Then, she says, they questioned her for three hours.

“They asked me again and again about Ibragim and all this stuff. They asked me, ‘Can you tell us when he will do something?’ I said, ‘No! I can’t!’ Because he wasn’t doing anything, and I didn’t know anything. And they said, ‘Oh, really? So why don’t we call immigration.’”

Gruzdev told me that she is from Tiraspol, a town in the former Soviet country of Moldova. She had come to America in 2012 on a student work visa, which had since expired. “I said, ‘Come on guys, you cannot do this! You know my visa was expired and you didn’t do anything. And now because you need me and I say I don’t want to help you, you just call to immigration?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, that’s right.’ And they called immigration and immigration came and they put me in the jail.”

When Todashev discovered FBI had detained her, according to Gruzdeva, they mocked him.

For the first week, Gruzdeva told me, she was kept in an immigration detention facility. She was allowed to talk to Todashev every day on the phone. She said he told her that when he had come to find her in the lobby the day she was detained, FBI agents mocked him, saying “Where’s your girlfriend?”

She said the mocking infuriated Todashev. “He said, ‘I want to hit them because I was so mad, why they lie to me? They stole you.’”

The morning after FBI killed Todashev, they moved Gruzdeva from ICE to County detention, but waited a day to tell her of his death.

On May 22, Gruzdeva said, she was transferred from immigration jail to a cell in Glades County Jail in Moore Haven, Florida. There, she said, she was placed in solitary confinement.

“I thought I would be released, because I don’t have any crime, I don’t have any charges, I was clear,” she said. She asked why she had been moved. “And they just said, “Oh we cannot tell you, we’ll tell you tomorrow in the morning.”

She did not know it yet, but that was the day Todashev had been fatally shot by the FBI.

The next morning, she said, immigration officers and “other officers” came to her cell.

“They said, ‘He’s dead.’

“I said, ‘That’s not true. I just saw him a couple days ago and I talked with him yesterday. He cannot be dead.’

“They said, ‘He died yesterday.’

She was released on August 8 (which strikes me as odd) and is now in line for a work authorization (again, odd). She ignored the Boston Magazine reporter (who was friends with one of the Waltham victims) until Wednesday, when her friend Miraliev was arrested.

The whole story is fascinating (though still largely based on her side of the story).

But if true, it suggests they were using her to pressure Todashev in the week before FBI killed him.

Promise, though, the FBI really did obtain his confession to the Waltham murders willingly, just seconds before they shot him.

Update: In related news, the Intelligence Community, DOJ, CIA, and Homeland Security Inspectors General aren’t ready to release their report about how the Boston attack was missed.

26 replies
  1. newz4all says:

    The Hidden Classified Briefing Most of Congress Missed

    The wild story of the short-notice, three-hour viewing period for a national-security document on the August Friday that summer recess started

    Inside the House of Representatives, there is an internal communications system designed specifically for members and their staffs. It’s a legacy product from when members used to send each other physical interoffice mail, addressed “Dear Colleague.”

    The “e-Dear Colleague” system now exists as an intranet database of messages that can be searched by topic, and as a kind of listserv on official doings for the 435 representatives’ offices. With so many people on it, the volume of email is high, which is why when there’s an important intelligence briefing for members of Congress, staffers are formally notified directly by their party leaders in the House.

    Except in August, according to Rep. Justin Amash, when something extraordinary happened. An important national-security document the libertarian Michigan Republican and some of his colleagues on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence had been trying to see for some time was made available to all members on less than 24 hours’ notice by the Intelligence Committee chair, with a viewing scheduled for when they were supposed to be voting, and on the very day Congress was set to begin its five-week summer recess. And the email went out through the “e-Dear Colleague” system, where it was buried.

    Amash, who has previously butted heads with Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger over access to classified documents, recounted what happened during remarks before libertarian activists attending the Liberty Political Action Conference in Chantilly, Virginia, Thursday night. It’s interesting to hear what it feels like to be one of the activist congressmen trying to rein in National Security Agency surveillance.

  2. bell says:

    what kind of coercion was used to get this? geez, what a pathetic country the usa appears to have become.

    “Promise, though, the FBI really did obtain his confession to the Waltham murders willingly, just seconds before they shot him.”

  3. par4 says:

    Let me help out here, …the friend of Tsarnaev that was MURDERED!!!!! by FBI THUGS!!!! …with a less plausible explanation than Robert Blake, O.J.Simpson and Phil Spector came up with… Oh right, it worked for two out of three.

  4. reliably says:

    This is the second appearance/disappearance of girlfriends in the Waltham murders to which Todashev allegedly confessed.

    The bodies of the Waltham victims were discovered by the girlfriend of one of the victims, Brendan Mess. The girlfriend is Muslim Somali immigrant whose name was on the lease of the apartment where the murders took place. (Tam Tsarnaev helped the couple move into the apartment.) According to 2011 news reports, she’d argued with Mess on Friday (throwing knives and bottles at him because he wouldn’t talk to guests she’d invited to the apartment), then stormed out of the apartment and apparently, conveniently out of state. (Florida was what I read somewhere, IIRC.) She returned on Monday to find the bodies.

    Like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the girlfriend wasn’t seen by Mess’s friends after the murders. Investigators talked to her in Virginia. (More here:

    Not sure how this relates, but it seems like it’s easier to kill people when you can get their girlfriends out of the picture.

  5. Arbusto says:


    From the movie, Married to the Mob: “Angela de Marco: God, you people work just like the mob! There’s no difference.

    Regional Director Franklin: Oh, there’s a big difference, Mrs. de Marco. The mob is run by murdering, thieving, lying, cheating psychopaths. We work for the President of the United States of America.”

    Rachel Maddow had a piece on FBI shootings. According to her, 150 shootings by agents were investigated, by the FBI, and found to justified. Of course the FBI preempts local or State investigations, although she said the State may hold an investigation into Tsarnaev death, since local police were present. This may be an opening, although I haven’t heard anything in the past month.

  6. P J Evans says:

    They sure do. It makes me wonder if we really need the government we currently have. (Half of them seem to be hoping no one ever notices all the laws they’re breaking, and the other half is keeping its head down.)

  7. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    @newz4all: Thanks for that link. Amazing.

    Each new insight about the NSA shows another level of corruption. What is truly amazing is that with an organization this thoroughly rotten that it managed to maintain any pretense of validity at its public face.

    _That_ shows how masterful Alexander et al have been in their ability to deceive OR the complicity across the entire administration. I lean towards the latter and only wonder how that will unravel.

  8. C says:

    It is odd that she’s in line for a work visa. IANAL but as I understand immigration law having been caught overstaying a visa should prevent her from doing that unless someone gives her a pass.

    Its even more creepy now that we know they were talking to him for a long while before “the incident” It makes their “he just snapped and came at us with a baseball bat/knife/pipe/samurai sword” story even worse.

    Thanks for covering this Marcy.

  9. greengiant says:

    AQ, Gulen, bosnia, Graham Fuller, Baku, FBI, 2001, Sibel Edmonds, Graham Fuller father-in-law of Uncle Tsarni, FBI interviews Tsarnaev, Tsarnaev not on the NO fly list, everyone who refuses to inform and entrap is placed on the NO fly list, hassle free travel to and back from Dagestan for Tsarnaev after the triple murder,
    The FBI either thought they had entrapped Tsarnaev and he moved the bombing up from July 4th, or the FBI thought Tsarnaev was working for them. All of this is twisted with the arrival of the FBI on the world stage, and use of NSA surveillance to blackmail people into informing and entrapping. Revealed now the send the girl friend to solitary incommunicado confinement ploy. Miraliev charged with tampering with a witness or an informant.

  10. JamesJoyce says:


    Any person would “snap” when realizing they have been framed as a pasty.

    So who did Jack Ruby work for having whacked, the patsy Oswald?

    The alphabet agencies are beginning to look more like the SS and Gestapo than law enforcement agencies.

  11. emptywheel says:

    @C: Right. If her visa was expired in its entirety, it would make her a good target for deportation, especially since she’s just 2 degrees of separation from a terrorist. Maybe Todashev’s father or someone else got her an immigration lawyer, though, which is like magic for immigration issues.

    Too bad people w/immigration problems can rarely afford them.

  12. C says:

    @JamesJoyce: Well the new FBI Director told HuffPo that he planned to “continue their transformation to an Intelligence Agency” so I guess this means even less prosecution of white collar crime.

  13. C says:

    @emptywheel: True a good lawyer can make all the difference in the world. But if her boyfriend did, or was involved in a triple homicide or his friends bombed anything and she had already broken the law well, … I doubt she could afford a Jonnie Chochran.

    This all smells too fishy for words. Thanks again for your work. It’s not like we’d hear about this from the NY Times :)

  14. P J Evans says:

    So why do we need at least three intelligence agencies in the federal government, and no national criminal-investigation agencies?

  15. guest says:

    @P J Evans: Because all the government agencies are facing budget cutbacks, sequestration, furloughs, etc. All except the “intelligence” agencies that get no questions asked boondoggles like the star trek command center at NSA.

  16. Bill Michtom says:

    @C: “I guess this means even less prosecution of white collar crime.”

    Not prosecuting white collar crime is policy.

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