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NY woman pleads guilty to bank fraud to give funds to and join ISIS

Department of Justice. (Scott "Skippy"/Flickr)
November 27, 2018

A 27-year-old New York woman pleaded guilty to providing material support to ISIS before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert.

According to the facts presented in the case, Zoobia Shahnaz of Brentwood, attempted to travel to Syria on July 31, 2017, but while preparing for her travels she concocted a scheme to defraud several financial institutions, according to the Justice Department.

Shahnaz falsified information to obtain a loan in the sum of $22,500 and fraudulently obtained a number of credit cards from Chase Bank, TD Bank, American Express and Discover, which she used to buy Bitcoin cryptocurrency in the amount of $62,703 and converted the currencies to cash, CNBC reported.

Shahnaz used the money to further engage in several wire transactions totaling over $150,000 to individuals and shell entities in Pakistan, China and Turkey that were fronts for ISIS.

While all of Shahnaz’s bank fraud and laundering money overseas was transpiring, she was retrieving ISIS propaganda online, including violent jihad-related websites and message boards, and social media and messaging pages of known ISIS recruiters, facilitators and financiers.

Her computer revealed that she had conducted numerous internet searches for information that would enable her entry into Syria.

Shahnaz arranged a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York to Istanbul, Turkey. This is the route that most Westerners use when traveling to Syria to join ISIS.

Before Shahnaz could board the plane, she was arrested by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

In her plea agreement, she admitted to defrauding numerous financial institutions and laundering the stolen proceeds out of the country with the intent to support a specified unlawful activity, namely the provision of material support to ISIS, after which she attempted to leave the United States and travel to Syria.

Shahnaz faces up to 20 years in prison, plus restitution, criminal forfeiture and a fine upon sentencing.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. for the FBI’s New York Field Office, and Commissioner James P. O’Neill for the NYPD announced the guilty plea on Monday.

Demers and Donoghue expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the FBI’s JTTF, which covers a number of federal, state and local agencies from the area.

The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell of the Eastern District of New York and Trial Attorney Joseph Attias of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.