A New York woman has been charged with sending Bitcoin to the terrorist group ISIS and could face up to 90 years in prison. According to a press release from the Department of Justice Thursday, Zoobia Shahnaz, an American citizen originally from Pakistan, is accused of providing more than $62,000 in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to ISIS earlier this year.
The 27-year-old Long Island resident, charged with bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and three substantive counts of money laundering, appeared before a magistrate judge Thursday and is expected to remain in custody until her next hearing in January.
“[T]he defendant defrauded numerous financial institutions and obtained over $85,000 in illicit proceeds, which she converted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” the press release states. ” She then laundered and transferred the funds out of the country to support the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS”)…” Shahnaz obtained funds by applying for a $22,500 loan and fraudulently opening more than a dozen credit cards before making over $150,000 in wire transfers “to individuals and apparent shell entities in Pakistan, China and Turkey.” “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 press release says. Authorities detained Shahnaz at John F. Kennedy International Airport with $9,500 in cash and unsuccessfully wiped electronic devices as she attempted to board a flight to Islamabad, Pakistan – “a common point of entry for individuals travelling from Western countries to join ISIS in Syria.”
Shahnaz had previously spent two weeks in January 2016 at the Zatarri refugee camp in Jordan where, according to court documents, “ISIS exercises significant influence.”
Between August 2015 and her arrest Shahnaz is also said to have made Google searches such as “top female jihadis” and “how much money can I send through Western Union.” If convicted on all counts, Shahnaz could receive 20 years for each count of money laundering and 30 years for fraud.