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New York woman pleads guilty to money laundering to support ISIS

November 26, 2018

A New York woman pleaded guilty Monday to laundering more than $150,000 in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to support the Islamic State, which she intended to join after she traveled to Syria.

Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, of Brentwood in New York’s Suffolk County, pleaded guilty to providing material support to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Shahnaz fraudulently obtained roughly $22,500 in bank loans and used over a dozen credit cards to purchase $62,000 in bitcoin and other digital monies online, prosecutors said. She then wired the funds between March and August 2017 to various individuals and front companies in Pakistan, China and Turkey with the intention of financing the Islamic State, according to court papers.

All told, Shahnaz transferred $150,000 to individuals and shell companies that were fronts for the Islamic State, the Justice Department said.

At the same time Shahnaz was using bitcoin to avoid law enforcement detection, she was “almost constantly” accessing Islamic State propaganda online, including violet jihad-related websites and message boards, prosecutors said.

Shahnaz, who last year quit her $71,000-a-year job at Manhattan hospital, was arrested in 2017 at John F. Kennedy International Airport with the intent of flying to Syria and joining the Islamic State, court documents said. At the time of her arrest, she had $9.500 in cash on her.

As part of the plea agreement, Shahnaz admitted to defrauding numerous financial institutions and laundering the stolen proceeds out of the country with the intent to provide material support to the Islamic State.

Shahnaz faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing.

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