A New York woman accused of sending bitcoin to ISIS could spend 90 years in prison

Reuters PicturesAn ISIS militant carrying the group’s flag through Raqqa, Syria, in 2014.
  • Zoobia Shahnaz is accused of sending cash to ISIS via cryptocurrencies.
  • The US Department of Justice says the 27-year-old New Yorker funnelled $US62,000 to the group via bitcoin and other currencies.
  • She is standing trial in New York and faces 90 years in prison if convicted.

A New York woman charged with sending money to the terrorist group ISIS in the form of bitcoin faces as much as 90 years in prison.

Zoobia Shahnaz, an American from Long Island, is accused of funnelling $US62,000 to the group via bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies earlier this year.

Shahnaz took out more than a dozen credit cards earlier this year and used the money she borrowed to buy cryptocurrency and send it abroad, according to an indictment filed by US attorneys in federal court.

A press release by the Department of Justice said she sent more than $US150,000, or £112,000, to benefit the terrorist group, also known as the Islamic State or ISIL, but it did not specify what form the other $US88,000 took.

The release said Shahnaz “engaged in a pattern of financial activity, culminating in several wire transactions, totaling over $US150,000, to individuals and apparent shell entities in Pakistan, China, and Turkey.”

It added: “These transactions were designed to avoid transaction reporting requirements, conceal the identity, source and destination of the illicitly obtained monies, and, ultimately, benefit ISIS.”

She tried to leave the US for Syria via Pakistan and Turkey but was stopped before she left the country, according to the release.

Shahnaz was indicted on five counts before the Eastern District of New York’s federal court. They are three counts of money laundering, one of bank fraud, and one of conspiracy to money launder.

If convicted on all counts, she could spend 90 years in federal prison: 20 for each count of money laundering and 30 for fraud.

This is not the first time terrorist groups have been linked to funding via cryptocurrencies.

Terrorists have increasingly started to use bitcoin over the past few years, increasing from about 100 daily transactions in 2009 to 282,000 daily transactions in 2017 so far, the Council on Foreign Relations said.

The Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center, a jihadi propaganda group in Gaza, started soliciting funds on bitcoin – at least $US2,500 for each fighter – as early as June 2016, according to the former CIA counterterrorism analyst Yaya Fanusie.

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