Darknet News

US Teen Accused of Trying to Fund ISIS With Darknet-Purchased Gift Cards

An 18-year-old US man accused of attempting to provide support to ISIS through donations of gift cards he bought on the dark web was arrested by the FBI a few days ago, June 8th. Mateo Ventura, of Wakefield, Massachusetts, is said to have purchased $1,670 worth of gift cards to give to who he thought was a supporter of the Islamic State terrorist group for their “war on nonbelievers,” according to federal prosecutors. The “supporter” turned out to be an undercover FBI agent who had been conversing online with Ventura since he was 16.

While still a juvenile, Ventura provided the undercover agent with 25 gift cards valued at $965, sending an additional $705 worth of cards between Jan and May of this year, after he had turned 18.

The gift cards, which ranged between $10 and $100 in value, were for major retail outlets like GameStop and Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well as digital service providers such as Google Play Store, PlayStation Network, Steam, and Amazon. According to prosecutors, Ventura’s plan was to raise money for the terrorist group by gifting them the cards which could then be resold for slightly less than face value.

Investigators say he wanted the proceeds to go to “war on kuffar,” or those who reject the tenets of Islam. He also allegedly told the agent he was in contact with he wanted to go to the Middle East and fight on the side of ISIS, at one point even purchasing an airline ticket to Cairo, which was never used or cancelled.

The teen’s father, Paul Ventura, told reporters that his son’s arrest was actually a big misunderstanding, and that he was actually trying to help the FBI to show them how easy it was for Americans to connect with terrorists on the dark web. He claims his son was being accused unfairly as he suffered from developmental issues and that the FBI was “after” his son.

“My son, called the FBI back and sat there and we had a meeting in my living room, and he wanted to show them how they could learn how people are doing this,” said Paul Ventura regarding the circumstances of his son’s arrest. “He wanted to work with them,” he added.

Mateo Ventura faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

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