Zoobia Shahnaz, a 27-year-old Pakistani-born American resident of Long Island, has been accused of laundering bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in an attempt to send the money to Syria to help ISIS.
According to prosecutors, Shahnaz is currently being held without bail after being arraigned on charges of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering on Thursday. She wired more than $150,000 to people and organizations related to the terrorist group, and as much as $62,000 of that was in various cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, as per Business Insider. She could be facing up to 90 years in prison if convicted.
Last night, FBI agents arrested a 27-year-old Pakistani woman on Long Island who allegedly:— Jose Pagliery (@Jose_Pagliery) December 14, 2017
• fraudulently got 6 credit cards
• bought $62k in #bitcoin
• tried to fund ISIS
• and googled things like "flights to Istanbul" and "sanctions definition"
Shahnaz’s interest in bitcoin preceded the cryptocurrency’s latest wave of popularity that has seen it become more valuable than ever. She allegedly started illegally obtaining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as early as March of this year with the help of a bank loan and credit cards.
“She then made several wire transactions to individuals and opaque entities in Pakistan, China, and Turkey, which were designed to avoid transaction reporting requirements and conceal the identity, source and destination of the illicitly-obtained monies,” court documents said. “These transactions were motivated to benefit ISIS, which the defendant ultimately sought to join in Syria.”
Shahnaz did not have a criminal history, but she had been inching closer and closer to the world of ISIS by accessing multiple known propaganda sites and message boards used by the terrorist group. She had also traveled to Jordan to volunteer with the Syrian American Medical Society in January 2016.
But in July of this year, while on her way to Islamabad, Pakistan, she was stopped by police at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. According to prosecutors, the flight to Pakistan included a layover in Istanbul, Turkey, which is where many are able to cross the border into Syria and join ISIS.
naturally 2017 ends at the intersection of ISIS and bitcoin. https://t.co/ADk0800qhm— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) December 15, 2017
Shahnaz’s lawyer, Steve Zissou, has a very different story to explain her interest in obtaining bitcoin to send to Syria. He claims she was sending money to help Syrian refugees. “What she saw made her devoted to lessening the suffering of a lot of the Syrian refugees and everything she does is for that purpose,” Zissou said outside the courthouse on Thursday where Shahnaz was arraigned.