U.S. government targets online terrorism funding schemes involving multiple terror organizations

"Pursuant to judicially-authorized warrants, U.S. authorities seized millions of dollars, over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the criminal enterprise," the DOJ said.

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Justice Department building in December 2019
Justice Department building in December 2019
(Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Updated: August 13, 2020 - 11:22pm

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The Department of Justice on Thursday divulged information about the dismantling of several online terror financing efforts involving the al-Qassam Brigades, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.

A criminal complaint and three forfeiture complaints have been unsealed, according to the DOJ, which said this is the government's biggest terrorism-related cryptocurrency seizure.

"Pursuant to judicially-authorized warrants, U.S. authorities seized millions of dollars, over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the criminal enterprise," the DOJ said.

The al-Qassam Brigades allegedly solicited bitcoin cryptocurrency donations online in order to fund its terrorist activities. While the group provided instructions on how to donate anonymously, the giving was not anonymous, and the U.S. government was able to take action.

"Working together, IRS, HSI, and FBI agents tracked and seized all 150 cryptocurrency accounts that laundered funds to and from the al-Qassam Brigades' accounts. Simultaneously, law enforcement executed criminal search warrants relating to United States-based subjects who donated to the terrorist campaign," the DOJ explained in a press release. Authorities also seized and secretly ran one of the terror group's websites.

Al-Qaeda and other related terrorist organizations were also said to be involved in raising bitcoin cryptocurrency online to fund their activities.

"The second cyber-enabled terror finance campaign involves a scheme by al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups, largely based out of Syria. As the forfeiture complaint details, these terrorist organizations operated a bitcoin money laundering network using Telegram channels and other social media platforms to solicit cryptocurrency donations to further their terrorist goals. In some instances, they purported to act as charities when, in fact, they were openly and explicitly soliciting funds for violent terrorist attacks," the Justice Department explained. "Today's complaint seeks forfeiture of the 155 virtual currency assets tied to this terrorist campaign."

The third matter pertained to an individual described as an "an ISIS facilitator who is responsible for managing select ISIS hacking operations," who the DOJ said sought to peddle "fake personal protective equipment via FaceMaskCenter.com." 

"The website claimed to sell FDA approved N95 respirator masks, when in fact the items were not FDA approved. Site administrators claimed to have near unlimited supplies of the masks, in spite of such items being officially-designated as scarce. The site administrators offered to sell these items to customers across the globe, including a customer in the United States who sought to purchase N95 masks and other protective equipment for hospitals, nursing homes, and fire departments," according to the DOJ.
 

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