UPDATED Feb. 18: The U.S. Justice Department has announced that an indictment was unsealed charging a Massachusetts man in obstructing an investigation into fires set in 2019 at Jewish-affiliated institutions, including religious centers in Arlington and Needham and a Jewish-affiliated business in Chelsea.

APD logoAlexandar Giannakakis, 35, formerly of Quincy, was arrested by Swedish authorities in a Stockholm suburb, at the request of the United States. He served as a security contractor at the U.S. embassy in Sweden and was arrested in that country on a federal indictment filed in Boston accusing him of tampering with evidence in an anti-Semitic arson probe targeting his brother, who died in September 2020, authorities said.

Giannakakis was indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston in connection with 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.

APD officers involved

Arlington Police Department Lt. Bryan Gallagher, Sgt. Edward DeFrancisco and Inspector James Smith were directly involved in the joint, multijurisdictional effort to investigate these acts of terror and hatred, Chief Juliann Flaherty said in a Feb. 16 news release.

"I am very proud of the dedicated and tireless work of law enforcement over the past nearly three years. The investigators followed all leads in this case, literally following the case around the world," Chief Flaherty said. "These crimes shook our community to its core, and it is my sincere hope that the international teamwork of American and Swedish authorities that has solved this series of hate crimes will provide some measure of solace to the victims."

In a statement Wednesday, Feb. 16, Rabbi Avi Bukiet said, "While I sincerely hoped that the arsonist himself would be apprehended and brought to justice to answer for the crimes committed, unfortunately he did not give himself that opportunity. It is with much relief that his brother has been apprehended and hopefully be extradited to the United States and face the law for his obstruction and tampering in this matter.

"There is much hope and optimism to be gained from the tremendous work done by law enforcement on all levels. From the very beginning they called it for what it was: a domestic terror attack fueled by anti-Semitic motivations. While this case is far from over, myself, my family and my community can have a sense of closure from today's news.

"I want to thank everyone who has been involved and supportive from the very get-go. The communities of Arlington and Belmont have shown their love and support throughout. Chief Flaherty of the Arlington Police Department, the APD and the Arlington Fire Department merit a special thank you."

Brother became suspect

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 the Center for Jewish Life 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.

The suspect was hospitalized and in a coma since November 2019, about 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 reentered the United States with his brother’s electronics.

When Giannakakis was in Quincy, 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.

What indictment alleges

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.

Potential impact of charges

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.

Making the announcement were U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI, Boston; Chief 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.

 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.

May 14, 2019: Police say 2nd suspicious Lake St. fire hits home/chabad

This news announcement was published Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022. The information was provided by John Guilfoil Public Relations. It was updated Feb. 18, to add ACMi video.