- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2017

Federal prosecutors have charged a Long Island resident in connection with a scheme that allegedly resulted in sending tens of thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin and other digital cryptocurrencies to Islamic State terrorists.

The Department of Justice unsealed a five-count indictment Thursday charging Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, with bank fraud and multiple counts of money laundering related allegedly attempting to fund the Islamic State, a designated foreign terrorist organization also known as ISIS and ISIL.

Ms. Shahnaz allegedly scammed various financial institutions out of roughly $85,000, then purchased approximately $62,000 worth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies subsequently transferred to shell entities in Pakistan, China and Turkey, prosecutors alleged.

“These transactions were designed to avoid transaction reporting requirements, conceal the identity, source and destination of the illicitly obtained monies and, ultimately, benefit ISIS,” the Justice Department said in a press release.

Ms. Shahnaz was arrested at her Brentwood home Wednesday and was ordered during her arraignment Thursday to remain in custody pending a January court appearance, The Telegraph reported.

She faces a maximum sentence of 90 years behind bars if convicted on each of the five counts.

Specifically prosecutors claimed Ms. Shahnaz misrepresented herself in order to obtain a bank loan worth $22,500. She then allegedly applied for multiple credit cards and then used those to purchase about $62,000 in cryptocurrency, according to court documents.

Ms. Shahnaz ultimately transferred the equivalent of over $150,000 destined for ISIS to various individuals and shell entities, the indictment alleged, “intending to put thousands of dollars into the coffers of terrorists,” said Bridget M. Rohde, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York where the case was filed.

“The indictment reflects the resolve of this Office, together with our law enforcement partners, to investigate and prosecute anyone who would seek to support terrorists, including those who would perpetrate financial crimes to do so,” said Ms. Rohde.

Ms. Shahnaz intended to fly to Syria after making the transactions, and she was intercept by authorities while attempting to board a flight to Islamabad, Pakistan, by way of Turkey, according to authorities.

“She initially said she was visiting mosques and tourist sites in Istanbul, but then admitted she did not know anyone and did not have any reservations at a hotel. She gave conflicting answers as to the money transfers, and was also found to be carrying $9,500 in undeclared cash and electronic devices whose contents she had attempted to erase,” the Justice Department said.

Ms. Shahnaz’s attorney, Steve Zissou, did not immediately comment publicly on the case.

Digital cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin are unregulated and not backed by any bank, making transactions comparably more difficult for authorities to monitor than traditional denominations.



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