PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland man named in a Los Angeles Times report for his alleged role in illegally funneling a gun to suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to conspiring to deal crack cocaine.
Biniam Tsegai, 27, originally pleaded not guilty to a charge that he conspired with others to deal crack cocaine from about November 2010 to February 2012.
On Thursday, Judge Nancy Torresen accepted Tsegai’s request to change his plea to guilty. He faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million. He would not be eligible for parole.
Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times report cited Department of Justice documents indicating that the 9 mm semiautomatic Ruger used by Tsarnaev to shoot at pursuing police officers in Watertown, Massachusetts, after the Boston Marathon bombing was purchased at Cabela’s in Scarborough by Danny Sun Jr. of South Portland, originally of Los Angeles.
Sun allegedly said he passed the gun to Tsegai, an immigrant from Eritrea known as “Icy.” How the gun ended up with Tsarnaev remains unclear.
Most of the court documents related to Tsegai’s arrest remain sealed. There is no publicly available document that links the crimes for which he has been charged in Portland to Tsarnaev.
Neither Tsegai or his attorney, Thomas Dyhrberg, would comment after Thursday’s hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Conley declined to discuss media reports alleging that Tsegai at one time owned the gun Tsarnaev used to shoot at officers in Watertown.
A presentencing report will be completed before Tsegai is sentenced.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that FBI sources indicated that the handgun used by Tamerlan Tsarnaev was purchased at Cabela’s in Scarborough. Department of Justice documents were used to make that link.