The FBI said a senior ISIS official sent money to an operative in the U.S. by using PayPal and eBay, the Wall Street Journal first reported Friday.
In a recently revealed affidavit, the FBI said it found a global financial network run by an ISIS senior official. The FBI found the individual was sending money to the U.S. for potential attacks.
The recipient of the money was Mohamed Elshinawy, a U.S. citizen in Maryland, the affidavit said. Elshinawy allegedly swore allegiance to ISIS and received thousands of dollars, with the intention to use the money to carry out terror attacks, the FBI said.
The FBI said Elshinawy pretended to sell computer printers on eBay as a cover up in order to receive payments from ISIS through PayPal.
Elshinawy was part of global network that spanned from England to Bangladesh that used similar tactics to fund the terrorist group. Other alleged operatives of the network were arrested in the U.K. and Bangladesh, the affidavit says. The financial network was directed by a senior ISIS member in Syria, Siful Sujan, who was reportedly killed in a drone strike in 2015. The network operated through a British tech company founded by Sujan, with offices in Bangladesh. The firm was also setting up a branch in Turkey.
In July 2015, the FBI questioned Elshinawy over a $1,000 Western Union transfer. He claimed the money came from his mother, then said it was so he could buy an iPhone for a friend. After the FBI told him he could face charges for lying to authorities, Elshinawy told officials it was given to him by a childhood friend who had been arrested for terrorism-related offenses and had fled to Syria.
Elshinawy said he was talking to an ISIS operative, but he tried to paint a picture to the FBI that he just wanted to scam money from the terrorist network, calling the group "thieves."
He told the FBI he received $4,000 from the operative. The first payment was $3,000 in May 2015 through the company via eBay and PayPal.
In a second interview with the FBI, Elshinawy said he received another $1,200 via PayPal through the printer scheme on eBay. The FBI's review of PayPal records show Elshinawy did not tell the agency about at least $3,500 out of the $7,700 of funds he received from Sujan's company. Authorities believe Elshinawy received a total of $8,700 from individuals linked to ISIS.
For years, governments have focused on the formal financial sector, but the FBI's uncovering of the financial network shows terrorist groups are looking for different ways to send money to fund potential attacks.
"eBay has zero tolerance for criminal activity on our marketplace," eBay said in a statement to International Business Times. "A total of two transactions (for printers) took place on the eBay marketplace for approximately $1,200, and we subsequently worked with law enforcement to bring this individual to justice."
eBay also released this statement onTwitter:
PayPal said it works with authorities during investigations.
"PayPal works closely with law enforcement, including in this matter, and responds quickly to lawful requests to support agencies in their investigations," PayPal spokesman Justin Higgs said in a statement to IBT. "The company proactively reports any suspicious activities and invests significant time and resources into our vigilant efforts to prevent terrorist activity on the PayPal platform."
Elshinawy was arrested more than a year ago, after the FBI had closely investigated him. He pleaded not guilty and is currently awaiting trial.
Elshinawy used the money he received from ISIS to buy a laptop, cellphone and a VPN network, which were used to communicate with the terrorist group, the FBI said. Elshinawy told authorities he knew the money was to be used for a terrorist plot, but that he didn't actually plan on carrying out an attack.
However, the affidavit said Elshinawy told his childhood friend that he "had many targets" and that he "was taking his time and being very careful in undertaking certain acts for ISIL."