New York Woman Used Bitcoin to Launder Money to ISIS

A Long Island woman is accused of laundering bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and wiring the money overseas to help the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group, according to the Justice Department.

Zoobia Shahnaz, a 27-year-old Pakistani-born former lab technician, is being held without bail since Thursday following her arraignment on charges of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, the Time reported.

Shahnaz worked in Manhattan and had no known criminal history, according to prosecutors who said that beginning in March she fraudulently obtained more than $85,000 through a bank loan and credit cards to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies online.

“She then made several wire transactions to individuals and opaque entities in Pakistan, China, and Turkey, which were designed to avoid transaction reporting requirements and conceal the identity, source, and destination of the illicitly-obtained monies. These transactions were motivated to benefit ISIS, which the defendant ultimately sought to join in Syria,” court documents said.

According to court records, Shahnaz, who lives in Brentwood on Long Island, was a lab technician at a Manhattan hospital until June. Prosecutors said that Shahnaz obtained a Pakistani passport in July and booked a flight to Pakistan with a layover in Istanbul, intending to travel to Syria. She was arrested at John F Kennedy airport carrying $9,500 in cash, just under the limit of $10,000 that a person can legally take out of the country without declaring the funds. Searches of her electronic devices showed numerous searches for Islamic State-related material.

Shahnaz faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the money laundering charges and up to 30 years for the bank fraud charge. According to her lawyer, Steve Zissou, she was only looking to help Syrian refugees she had met while volunteering in Jordan at the Syrian American Medical Society, Newsweek reports.

“What she saw made her devoted to lessening the suffering of a lot of the Syrian refugees and everything she does is for that purpose,” Zissou said outside the courthouse.

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