The 4-Year Old Pizza Conversations

Because I harp endlessly about the need to defeat pizza joints in the NSA’s contact chaining, which might affect the process’ utility for the Tsarnaev brothers, both of whom worked at pizza joints who had weird ties to another pizza joint, I wanted to point to this piece describing the deportation proceedings of Mustafa Ozseferoglu.

Ozseferoglu came to the US from Turkey illegally in 2000 when he was 16, across the Mexican border. He was married to an American and has a son born in this country, Osman, whose health concerns Ozseferoglu has cited in his bid to stay in the country.

Ozseferoglu was interviewed by the FBI in July 2013 and then arrested on immigration charges in September 2013 (at the same time the FBI was going after a bunch of other immigrants with ties to the Tsarnaevs).

Ozseferoglu met Tamerlan through his father, but then worked with him briefly in 2009, during which point they exchanged some number of phone calls — for work purposes, according to Ozseferoglu.

Ozseferoglu came to Anzor for repairs regularly. When Anzor asked him why his cars were so rundown, he told him that he delivers pizza for Boston Pizza Express. Pretty soon after that, Tamerlan applied for the job too.

Boston Pizza Express, has since gone out of business, but in 2009 it was located at 1026 Commonwealth Avenue, near Boston University. Ozseferoglu and Tamerlan worked together for between three weeks and three months, a rough estimate that was scrutinized heavily by the prosecution.


In Ozseferoglu’s immigration hearing, the number of phone calls between him and Tamerlan during this period of time were called into question. Kelly says the two contacted each other about 100 times. Ozseferoglu says these calls weren’t illicit, or even personal. The two, he says, were just coordinating pizza deliveries.

“When we’re going on delivery, we take some of the deliveries and we call the other driver,” he explains.

But then Ozseferoglu had more recent conversations about car repair in 2013.

“I was driving on Brighton Ave, turning onto Linden Street in Alston, and I saw Tamerlan with his car, waiting on the light and I was turning,” he says, adding that Tamerlan was with his younger brother. “I say, ‘How’s business?’”

“It was like a few seconds,” he says. “I was in the minivan. I told them that minivan had a transmission problem, and you know, I’m looking to repair that. And that’s when I call and ask—you know, transmission repair,” he says.

He got Tamerlan’s new number, he says, and Tamerlan gave him a recommendation of where to get his car fixed. Anzor had moved back to Dagestan at this point.

Finally, FBI has questioned Ozseferoglu about his girlfriend’s pressure cooker, the explanation for which makes no sense.

“If that pressure cooker was a couple of years old, what was the DVD instruction on how to operate a pressure cooker doing in your trash in 2013?” asks Kelly. He says he disposed of it in a public waste bin and had bought the cooker at Macy’s in 2009. His girlfriend used it to cook beans.


Law officers took photos of his girlfriend’s pressure cooker and Ozseferoglu was arrested.

Exactly how federal agents became aware of Ozseferoglu is unclear. Agent Robert Marshal, who testified against Ozseferoglu, says it was because of his phone contacts with Tsarnaev.

But Marshall and Kelly also mention a pressure cooker [sic–I believe this is only the instructions] that Ozseferoglu threw in a public trash bin before the Boston Marathon, along with a few identifying documents. “I believe someone found it and brought it to the Watertown Police. I don’t believe Watertown Police were searching his trash,” Marshall testified.

Exactly why a pressure cooker manual sparked the interest of law enforcement before the Boston Marathon bombing is still unclear.

Now, we’ve been told that the government used the phone dragnet to ID the Tsarnaev’s connections, so it is likely the flurry of calls in 2009 followed by the brief calls not long before the attack sparked their attention.

But I doubt that every single person whom the brothers had conversations with in the 4 years prior to the attacks got a detailed interview. So I suspect they had already identified Ozseferoglu as someone meriting heightened interest.

So I would guess that they IDed him the same way I suspect they IDed two or three apparently innocent people in the Najibullah Zazi investigation: by cross-referencing calls with pressure cooker purchase records (though with Zazi, they collected TATP precursor purchase records). And if Ozseferoglu had bought his pressure cooker around the time he was chatting to Tamerlan regularly, that would heighten the suspicion.

Which leaves just the question of why Watertown cops would have kept his pressure cooker manual turned in before the attack (if that’s what happened — it’s also possible they searched Watertown’s trash).

Watertown. Watertown. This investigation always comes back to Watertown.

18 replies
  1. wallace says:

    Emptywheel.. with all due respect…I suggest you and your Irish spouse take a well deserved break.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    And have some of that 4-year old pizza, to boot. It’s still good, so long as it’s been refrigerated, we all know that (cold pizza for breakfast, anyone?) Kind of like those McDonald’s hamburgers that you leave out on the counter for a month and they don’t go bad. Nothing but the best for you, MT.

  3. greengiant says:

    Any information on the exact date the pressure cooker and instructions were dumped per the daily beast article? And exactly how many informants were the FBI making pitches to? The article points to another one Konstantin Morozov, after the bombing. When did the IC start searching for pressure cooker owners? If they were so diligent in monitoring Ozseferoglu how were they behind the 8-ball with the Tsarnaev when he purchased 5 cookers at Macy’s “two months before the attack.”
    What is it with March 2015 and pressure cookers in 2013? Tsarnaev’s widow’s attorney Dratel denies she was with him at any purchase.
    Occam’s razor says the Tsarnaev was supposed to set up Ozseferoglu and when he bailed the handlers went to sleep.

  4. Bay State Librul says:

    Watertown casted 72.4% of their votes for Obama in 2012 (and they border Belmont)

    They have over a dozen pizza parlors


    They deserve a pass.


    How come no trash talk on the Jets “tampering” with Revis?

  5. lefty665 says:

    Certainly seem to be several oddities in the Governments conduct. What’s the hypothesis, this was another operation gone wrong?
    I still have a hard time believing the CIA uncle was a coincidence, and offing the guy in Fla right after supposedly getting a confession was bizarre too.

    • emptywheel says:

      With this guy? Not at all. He got caught in the dragnet. It’s how the dragnet is supposed to work — to find those in contact with suspects who might have actions of interest themselves, as owning a pressure cooker would (and I absolutely assume FBI pulled pressure cooker purchase records).

      He may be totally innocent, but that’s what the dragnet does.

  6. pdaly says:

    Maybe after 911, a foreigner marrying an American is an automatic trigger to monitor for marriage fraud. His estranged wife’s name was withheld at her request in the linked article but I wonder if it is Hispanic. Her roommate’s last name is Pena. It would follow a pattern set my al Qaeda double agent Ali Mohamed marrying an American with a Hispanic last name, etc.

    • emptywheel says:

      As someone who got her spouse a green card during 2011 in the INS office that also serves Dearborn (the office had pulled desk officers and sent them to stop cars in Dearborn, incidentally), trust me, they monitor for marriage fraud in much cruder ways.

      • pdaly says:

        My first thought is they are targeting you for your work. Maybe it is reassuring if INS is equally annoying to everyone regardless of their spouse’s race/religion/country of origin.

        • emptywheel says:

          Not me. And besides, that was back when I was a nondescript academic. They were targeting Dearborn’s largest in the US Arab population.

  7. pdaly says:

    Speaking of pattern (always Watertown), I was struck by a different coincidence when reading the article about Ozseferoglu: the Tsarnaev brothers in a car and Brighton Avenue again? It is the same stretch of road where “Danny” was carjacked by them.
    “Ozseferoglu isn’t sure of the date exactly, but he saw the Tsarneav brothers in 2013, near the time of the bombing.
    “I was driving on Brighton Ave, turning onto Linden Street in Alston, and I saw Tamerlan with his car, waiting on the light and I was turning,” he says, adding that Tamerlan was with his younger brother. “I say, ‘How’s business?’””
    Compare that description to Danny’s carjacking story in 2013:
    The 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur had just pulled his new Mercedes to the curb on Brighton Avenue to answer a text when an old sedan swerved behind him, slamming to a stop. A man in dark clothes got out and approached the passenger window. It was nearly 11 p.m. last Thursday.
    He ordered Danny to drive — right on Fordham Road, right again on Commonwealth Avenue — the beginning of an achingly slow odyssey
    If you use google maps to locate Linden Street and Fordham Road in Allston, MA you will see how close they are if you are in a car on Brighton Ave.
    Cannot tell from the phrase “near the time of the bombing” (first quote above) whether that means before or after the bombing, but it seems the Tsarnaev brothers were on a stake out on Brighton Ave for some reason.

    • P J Evans says:

      Brighton is the main street through Allston and into Watertown. I’d be surprised if it weren’t involved several different times and ways.

      • pdaly says:

        True, but I don’t think Brighton Ave is the fastest route from Cambridge to Watertown–lots of car dealerships and fast food restaurants. Western Ave, Memorial Drive, and Soldiers Field Road are faster routes during the day from East Cambridge.
        An oddity of Brighton Ave is that it connects Commonwealth Ave to North Beacon Street in one continuous straight line (Route 20) which reaches Watertown Mall.
        Commonwealth Ave (heading west from Boston University) veers off to the southwest when it meets Brighton Ave and heads away from Watertown.

        • pdaly says:

          In other words, Brighton Ave is not a very long stretch of road compared to the length of Route 20 (N. Beacon St. + Brighton Ave + a portion of Commonwealth Ave), but the Tsarnaev brothers are seen on Route 20 by two eyewitnesses on presumably separate occasions. For both sightings, it is the Brighton Ave section of Route 20, and on Brighton Ave the sightings are separated by merely 3 side streets.

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s why I raised Watertown. The brothers seem to have wanted to go to Watertown, and they went to that same pizza joint that had a tie to the 2011 murder and may have thrown out evidence there. I’ve long wondered if the brothers had a co-conspirator there that the government doesn’t really want to talk about.

  8. greengiant says:

    Two pressure cookers or one? Did the words “dvd manual” drop off Susan Zalkind’s dailybeast article? “Marshall and Kelly also mention a pressure cooker that Ozseferoglu threw in a public trash bin”
    Are the 5 pressure cookers bought at Macy’s accounted for, 2 for the bombing, 1 used in Watertown, and ???

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s why I included the “sic.” Given the context elsewhere, I think only the DVD instructions got thrown out, not the pressure cooker itself.

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