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New York Woman Charged with Laundering Bitcoin to Help ISIS

New York Woman Charged with Laundering Bitcoin to Help ISIS

Friday, 15 December, 2017 - 11:15
Bitcoin (virtual currency) coins placed on Dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration picture, November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

US prosecutors have charged a New York woman with laundering more than $85,000 in fraudulently obtained money through Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to help ISIS terrorist group.

The office of Acting US Attorney Bridget Rohde in Brooklyn said that Zoobia Shahnaz, a 27-year-old Pakistani-born resident of Brentwood, was arrested Wednesday on charges of bank fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Shahnaz pleaded not guilty on Thursday before US Magistrate Judge Kathleen Tomlinson in Central Islip, New York, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for Rohde's office.

Prosecutors said that between March and July of this year, Shahnaz obtained a loan and multiple credit cards by making false representations to financial institutions, and used them to buy Bitcoin.

They said she then laundered the money through illicit transactions involving shell companies in Pakistan, China and Turkey with the ultimate goal of using the money to benefit ISIS.

In July, prosecutors said, Shahnaz sought to travel to Syria, but was stopped and questioned by law enforcement at John F. Kennedy International Airport while attempting to board a flight to Islamabad, Pakistan.

The former lab technician worked in Manhattan and had no known criminal history, according to prosecutors.

Her lawyer, Steve Zissou, said she was sending money overseas to help Syrian refugees.

"... 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 on Thursday.

The most serious charge, bank fraud, carries 30 years in prison, according to Rohde's office.

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