Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Zoobia Shahnaz was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment by United States District Judge Joanna Seybert for providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically more than $150,000 to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Shahnaz pleaded guilty in November 2018.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the sentence.
“Today, the defendant learned the consequences of seeking to join ISIS and funneling thousands of dollars into the terrorist organization’s coffers,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “There is no higher priority of the Department of Justice and this Office than protecting our country from those who support violent, hate-filled terrorist organizations.” Mr. Donoghue praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force which consists of investigators and analysts from the FBI, the NYPD and over 50 other federal, state and local agencies.
“Financing terrorist organizations shouldn’t be viewed as any less dangerous of a crime than actually carrying out an act of terror itself. Make no mistake about it, Shahnaz funneled a significant amount of money into the hands of those who intended to use it in furtherance of ISIS objectives, and she set out to travel overseas with similar goals in mind. Today’s sentencing is a welcome end to this case as the FBI, along with our partners on the JTTF, continues to pursue other like-minded individuals,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.
As set forth in court filings and facts presented at the sentencing hearing, between March 2017 and July 2017, Shahnaz defrauded numerous financial institutions to obtain money for ISIS, including a loan of approximately $22,500. Shahnaz also fraudulently obtained more than a dozen credit cards and used them to purchase approximately $62,000 in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies online. Shahnaz then made multiple wire transfers totaling more than $150,000 to individuals and entities in Pakistan, China and Turkey that were fronts for ISIS.
Shahnaz accessed ISIS violent jihad-related websites and message boards, and social media and messaging pages of known ISIS recruiters, facilitators and financiers. She also performed numerous internet searches for information that would facilitate her entry into Syria. Court-authorized search warrants executed at Shahnaz’s residence on Long Island resulted in the seizure of terrorist and jihad-related propaganda, including a photograph of a suicide belt of explosives and a night vision scope.
On July 31, 2017, Shahnaz was stopped at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, while attempting to board a flight with a layover in Istanbul, Turkey – a common point of entry for individuals travelling from western countries to join ISIS in Syria.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section and Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorney Artie McConnell is in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Joseph Attias of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
Brentwood, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-522 (JS)