American Woman Faces 20 Years in Prison for Sending Bitcoin to ISIS

A Pakistani-American woman faces up to 20 years in the slammer after admitting she sent Bitcoin to a terrorist organization.

Twenty-seven-year-old hospital technician Zoobia Shahnaz admitted to a Federal Court judge that she took out a fraudulent loan worth $22,500 and several falsified credit cards to be able to raise $62,000. She then used the funds to purchase Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to send to numerous ISIS shell companies all over the world.

The New York hospital technician admitted to the charges as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. Defendants may enter a plea deal with prosecutors for a lesser sentence if they admit to the charges or provide information on an investigation that further supports charges of a case.

Judge Joanna Seybert, the presiding judge at the Central Islip court in New York could still sentence Shahnaz to up to 20 years in federal prison despite the plea bargain.

Authorities from the Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Shahnaz, who is an American citizen, in July last year. The 27-year-old was about to board a flight to Pakistan en route to Syria when authorities apprehended her. According to the investigation, the defendant had been visiting “various violent jihad-related websites and message boards, and social media and messaging pages of known IS recruiters, facilitators and financiers.”

Foundation for Defense of Democracies Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance director of analysis Yaya Fanusie stated that even though Shahnaz was apprehended, she was able to send digital currencies to ISIS abroad, a practice that normally fails for terrorists.

In a Congressional House Financial Services Committee hearing held in September, Fanusie presented his findings stating that terrorist organizations like ISIS have constantly failed to finance their criminal activities with digital currencies.

Fanusie explained that one of the problems was due to the fact that terrorist organizations are forced to operate in isolated locations.

Without stable access to the internet or electricity, sending and receiving digital currencies could be next to impossible, which discouraged terrorists from using this technology.

While terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS had so far struggled, Fanusie told Congress that they might learn to use it in the future, adding that the U.S. must prepare for terrorists using cryptocurrencies.