A woman allegedly converted $85,000 into bitcoin and other virtual currencies to support Islamic State, but was nabbed by authorities as she tried to board a flight out of the US.
Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, a US citizen, was indicted Thursday in federal court in Central Islip, New York. A five-count-indictment charges Shahnaz with bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and three substantive counts of money laundering, according to a US Department of Justice statement.
Both the court filing and the indictment released Thursday allege that Shahnaz defrauded several financial institutions, which is how she gained more than $85,000.
After allegedly swindling the financial institutions out of the money, Shahnaz proceeded with the conversion of that money into bitcoin and similar currencies, which were then moved to overseas funds and laundered in order to support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), the DOJ press release stated.
Shahnaz was arrested on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport, following a line of questioning by law enforcement officials who stopped her as she tried to leave the US for Islamabad, Pakistan.
Shahnaz laundered the bitcoin proceeds to people in the countries of China, Turkey and Pakistan. The woman also “accessed ISIS propaganda, violent jihad-related websites and message boards, and social media and messaging pages of known ISIS recruiters, facilitators and financiers,” according to the DOJ statement.
She then followed through with an investigation of maps depicting regions in Syria under control by IS and searched the internet for “ISIS recruiters, financiers, and fighters, including those who have urged lone-wolf attacks against American targets.” Shahnaz also had intentions to “travel to Syria and join ISIS,” the DOJ press release said.
Acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Bridget Rohde released a statement on Shahnaz’s case.
“As alleged, the defendant Zoobia Shahnaz engaged in a bank fraud scheme, purchased bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and laundered money overseas, intending to put thousands of dollars into the coffers of terrorists,” Rohde said, according to the Washington Examiner.
Shahnaz’s trip out of the US also had a layover in Istanbul, Turkey, which lasted several days. Prosecutors say this is a “common point of entry” for people hailing from western countries attempting to join IS, according to the DOJ press release.