Washington — Three Americans and a Canadian have been charged with providing material support to the Islamic State (ISIS), the Justice Department announced Thursday, charging them with raising funds for the terrorist organization and using deceptive and covert communications and publications to avoid scrutiny. .
Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York allege that Mohammad David Hashimi of Virginia, Abdullah At Taqi of New York, Seema Rahman of New Jersey, and Khalilullah Yousuf of Ontario, Canada, worked with an unidentified “facilitator” apparently connected to the ISIS central media. organization to gain financial support for the terrorist group using Bitcoin and fundraising sites like GoFundMe.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed this week, the defendants allegedly worked in various ways to raise more than $35,000 in cryptocurrency and other monetary donations. In many cases, the investigators say, the ISIS facilitator instructed the defendants and their associates to run fake campaigns and create false causes for their initiatives “in order to mislead” and avoid scrutiny.
The fundraising site accounts they used appear to have been deliberately misleading and did not indicate what the funds would actually be used for, one campaign even saying: “Help raise money for some families in need for Eid,” court documents say. Other pages read: “Widow in need of assistance” and “Ramadan Appeal for Gaza”, ostensibly to prevent investigators from discovering its purpose.
Hashimi and Yousuf are accused of being part of an encrypted group chat with ISIS supporters and “other groups adhering to similar violent jihadist ideologies.” As early as April 2021, an unnamed member of the chat wrote: “Post all links for serious donations that help our mujahideen…” For security reasons, please post only the links without saying what the money is being used for.
In response, prosecutors allege that Yousuf posted in the same chat a Bitcoin address controlled by the ISIS facilitator and wrote: “If anyone wants to donate to the royal mujahideen on the battlefield… This brother is legit^^^ “.
The charging documents allege that the money raised by the group was for people fighting on behalf of ISIS. The charging documents also allege that in January, Taqi said that he originally contributed funds to someone who was killed.
“All we really need is maybe like 100,000 fighters and biidhnillah, Muslims could take over the world because most of our enemies are cowards,” Taqi allegedly wrote via an encrypted messaging platform with a confidential human source who he says investigators, had been working with them since October. 2021.
The confidential human source and the anonymous ISIS facilitator continued to communicate frequently and on June 8, 2022, the source asked the facilitator to prove that the money was being raised for real ISIS members. The facilitator responded with an image showing weapons, including what appear to be grenades, arranged on an ISIS flag.
“I am responsible for donations coming into a country and I transfer them to the mujahideen in every state,” the anonymous ISIS intermediary reportedly told the FBI human source.
Investigators allege that Hashimi’s words and social media posts indicated his “support of ISIS and extremist causes,” at one point telling another that he would be willing to “die on the battlefield.” And in a series of messages, Rahman told Hashimi that his parents were “threatening to sue them both” for his alleged conduct.
“Obviously I don’t want to go to jail either,” he allegedly wrote to Hashimi, imploring in another instance: “Can you help me plan? I’m a térörist to them.”
Hashimi, Taqi and Rahman were arrested Wednesday in Virginia, New York and New Jersey, respectively, the Justice Department said, and Yousuf was also arrested on December 14 by Canadian police at the request of the US.
“The allegations in this complaint, while extremely serious in nature, are just that, allegations. As it currently stands, Ms. Rahman is, and remains, innocent until proven guilty. To that end, look forward to I look forward to his day in court,” Rahman’s attorney, Jeff Greco, said in a statement to CBS News. He intends to plead not guilty.
Taqi’s public defender declined to comment.
A legal representative for Hashimi could not immediately be identified.