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Tsarnaev prison canteen cash leads to DOJ get-tough memo

Joe Dwinell, Boston Herald on

Published in News & Features

A Justice Department memo urges prosecutors to push harder for restitution after complaints swirled that killers and sexual predators were ducking the bills while behind bars.

That includes Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose canteen account at the Supermax in Colorado — dubbed the Alcatraz of the Rockies — had surpassed $20,000.

The memo, first reported by the Washington Post Monday, states: “Prosecutors should request that sentencing courts order that restitution be due and payable immediately, but if courts order otherwise, prosecutors should propose that payment plans be set at ‘the shortest time in which full payment can reasonably be made.’”

The author of the directive, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, goes on to say prosecutors should “proactively” look for that money, the New York Daily News reports.

In September, a judge allowed federal prosecutors to take R. Kelly’s nearly $28,000 commissary account, money the disgraced singer’s lawyer said came from donations by superfans, to pay his sex trafficking victims.

Now they want more, the Daily News reports.

As the Herald first reported, a federal judge granted a request from the acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Nathaniel Mendell last winter to seize $21,071 from Tsarnaev’s prison canteen account.

That cash included a $1,400 COVID stimulus check sent to Tsarnaev — a payout that’s been targeted in Congress.

The order states that federal prison officials are “authorized to turn over” to the court clerk “any and all funds, including any funds subject to administrative hold” held in Tsarnaev’s account.


But, that order did not address any future donations to Tsarnaev’s canteen account. A new motion would need to be filed for those potential future funds.

“It’s a shame,” Bob Hood, the former warden at Federal Correctional Complex Florence, Colorado, where Tsarnaev is locked up for life, said Monday. “He should be paying restitution every month even if it’s a token amount.”

Hood added the “public would be shocked to know he can spend up to $285 a month” in the prison canteen.

Tsarnaev admitted to his role and was convicted in the April 15, 2013, marathon bombings. The student at UMass Dartmouth at the time of the bombing, and his older brother, Tamerlan, set off the two bombs at the marathon finish line, killing three people and wounding and maiming more than 260 others. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a manhunt three days later — run over by his brother fleeing in a car.

The bombing killed Martin Richard, 8; Krystle Campbell, 29; and Lu Lingzi, 23. MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, 27, was shot execution-style days later by the Tsarnaevs, who were on the run. Boston Police Officer Dennis Simmonds, 28, injured in that Watertown shootout, died in April 2014.

He awaits a final court decision on his death penalty.


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