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US: Pakistani-origin woman tries to aid ISIS with Bitcoins, in custody

REUTERS
Published : Dec 15, 2017, 12:19 pm IST
Updated : Dec 15, 2017, 12:19 pm IST

Shahnaz sent funds to recipients in Pakistan, China and Turkey, prosecutors said.

Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, used fraudulent credit cards and loans to accumulate USD 85,000, which she attempted to transfer to the terrorist group ISIS before attempting to go to Syria to join it. (Photo: File/Representational)
 Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, used fraudulent credit cards and loans to accumulate USD 85,000, which she attempted to transfer to the terrorist group ISIS before attempting to go to Syria to join it. (Photo: File/Representational)

New York: A suburban New York hospital technician accused of using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to launder money meant for the terror group ISIS was arrested on charges of money laundering in support of a foreign terrorist organization and bank fraud, prosecutors said Thursday.

Federal prosecutors in New York's Suffolk County claimed in court papers that Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, used fraudulent credit cards and loans to accumulate USD 85,000, which she attempted to transfer to the terrorist group ISIS before attempting to go to Syria to join it.

Prosecutors said that after travelling to Jordan to work with the Syrian American Medical Society, Shahnaz returned to the United States and applied for six credit cards, which she used to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

The resident of the hamlet of Brentwood in Islip on Long Island appeared before a federal judge late on Thursday and was ordered detained, prosecutors said.

Shahnaz' lawyer, Steve Zissou, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.

After borrowing about USD 85,000 with fraudulently obtained credit cards and loans and withdrawing another USD 22,000 from bank accounts in her own name, Shahnaz sent funds to recipients in Pakistan, China and Turkey, prosecutors said.

Some of that money came in the form of USD 63,000 in bitcoin and other crypto-currencies purchased with the credit cards, prosecutors said.

Arraignment and detention documents released on Thursday showed that Shahnaz, a US citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said that in July Shahnaz obtained a Pakistani passport and booked a flight to Pakistan with a layover in Istanbul with the intention of going to Syria. She was stopped by law enforcement investigators at John F. Kennedy airport and questioned about her trip and the financial transactions, prosecutors said.

She had USD 9,500 in cash with her, just under the limit of USD 10,000 that a person can take out of the country without declaring it to immigration and customs officials, they said.

Subsequent searches of Shahnaz' electronic devices showed numerous searches for ISIS-related material, including travel checklists.

She faces three charges of money laundering, including money laundering in support of a foreign terrorist organization, and is also charged with bank fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the money laundering charges and up to 30 years for the bank fraud charge.

Tags: isis, cryptocurrencies, bitcoin
Location: United States, District of Columbia, Washington