FBI documents have revealed a global financial network run by a senior Islamic State official that funneled money to an alleged ISIS operative in the U.S. through fake eBay transactions.
The Wall Street Journal reported news that a recently unsealed FBI affidavit shows that the alleged recipient of the funds was Mohamed Elshinawy, an American citizen arrested more than a year ago in Maryland. The suspect was part of a global network directed by a now-dead senior ISIS figure in Syria, Siful Sujan. The affidavit indicates that several other alleged operatives had been arrested in Britain and Bangladesh.
Elshinawy, who is in federal custody awaiting trial, pretended to sell computer printers on eBay as a cover to funnel payments for Islamic State through PayPal. He received a total of $8,700, which he used for a laptop, a mobile phone and a VPN communications network, all of which the FBI says he used to communicate with the Islamic State network.
While he knew the money was meant to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States, Elshinawy told the FBI he never planned to carry it out. Instead, he said he was taking the money from “thieves” and has pleaded not guilty to supporting the terrorist group.
Since 9/11, the U.S. and other countries have focused on the formal international banking systems that terror networks might use to transfer money to would-be terrorists. However, this case shows how they are now trying to exploit holes in the vast online financial world.
In fact, some alleged perpetrators have gotten small sums through low-level fraud, such as check scams, or through channels where regulators have been paying less attention, such as social media fundraising, student loan withdrawals and online lending fraud.
A spokesman for eBay said the company “has zero tolerance for criminal activities taking place on our marketplace” and that they are working with law enforcement officials on the case.
In addition, a spokeswoman for PayPal said that it “invests significant time and resources in working to prevent terrorist activity on our platform … We proactively report suspicious activities and respond quickly to lawful requests to support law enforcement agencies in their investigations.”