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Eighteen-year-old arrested for raising money for ISIS through gift card scheme on dark web

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(WAKEFIELD, Mass.) — An 18-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly trying to raise money for ISIS through a gift card scheme on the dark web.

Mateo Ventura, from Wakefield, Massachusetts, was arrested for “knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources that he intended to go to a foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS),” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts released on Thursday.

Ventura allegedly provided multiple gift cards to an individual that he believed was an ISIS supporter with the intention that those gift cards subsequently be sold on the dark web for slightly less than their face value. The proceeds and resulting profits from those sales would then be used to support ISIS, authorities said.

“Ventura allegedly stated that he wanted the proceeds to go to ISIS “for war on kuffar,” (disbelievers),” the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts said in their statement announcing the charges against Ventura. “In total, it is alleged that between January and May 2023, Ventura donated $705 intended to support ISIS.”

If convicted, the punishment for knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000, authorities said.

Ventura appeared in federal court before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy on Thursday. It is unclear when Ventura will next appear in court.

“Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts said. “The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”

The investigation is ongoing.

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