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Massachusetts teen accused of buying $1,670 in gift cards to support ISIS; he allegedly tried to get $10 million from the FBI

FBI agent. (FBI/Released)

A Wakefield teenager is accused of buying $1,670 in gift cards to support ISIS and the terrorist organization’s fighters, allegedly sending the gift cards to an undercover FBI agent posing as an ISIS supporter.

Mateo Ventura, 18, who told the undercover agent that he wanted to fight with ISIS, also reportedly tried to get $10 million from the FBI in exchange for information about an ISIS terror attack.

The FBI on Thursday arrested Ventura, and he was charged with knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources that he intended to go to a foreign terrorist organization.

While Ventura was still a juvenile, he gave 26 gift cards to the undercover agent — donating $965 that was intended to support ISIS. Then after Ventura turned 18 years old, he gave 16 gift cards to the agent earlier this year — donating $705 to help ISIS.

“This seems really untraceable,” Ventura wrote to the agent about using the gift cards to help the terrorist organization.

Ventura, who lives at home with his father in Wakefield, used an online encrypted messaging application to communicate with the agent. The application, EMA, has become one of ISIS’s primary communication tools, and the app is used by its supporters to plan attacks.

As a juvenile in 2021, Ventura started talking with the agent about his desire to “make hijrah,” which refers to traveling overseas to join and fight with ISIS.

Then the agent asked Ventura if he wanted to give “sadaqah,” a term used to describe donations to ISIS.

Later that day, Ventura sent the undercover agent a redemption code for a Google gift card worth $25.

The agent asked Ventura if he wanted the redemption code sold on the dark web for money, and for that money to be sent “straight to mujahideen (Islamic fighters) for help in fight against kuffar (disbelievers).”

“Okay sell on darkweb,” Ventura wrote to the agent.

FBI special agent Paul Lagno wrote in the criminal complaint, “Ventura understood that providing material support to ISIS in the form of gift cards would be untraceable and would conceal that he was the source of the donations.”

Ventura is accused of purchasing a total of $1,670 in gift cards, with the intention of the money supporting the terror group.

Then in April, the 18-year-old allegedly called the FBI Boston Operations Center multiple times — asking to speak with an agent, saying he had information about upcoming terror attacks.

He told the FBI that the alleged attacks were scheduled to take place around the time of Eid al-Fitr in Egypt.

Then he wrote an electronic tip to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center, requesting $10 million and immunity “in exchange for information he believed would stop an ISIS attack,” the criminal complaint reads.

The FBI told him that the information was not specific, and therefore not actionable. In a follow-up electronic tip, Ventura told the FBI that he was “okay with the FBI’s decision, and requesting for the FBI to never speak to him again.”

The charge of knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization can lead to a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.


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