Massachusetts Teen Charged in Gift Card Scheme to Support ISIS, Officials Say

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A Massachusetts teen was charged for his alleged role in a gift card scheme to try and raise money to support the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on Thursday, according to officials.

Mateo Ventura, 18, allegedly donated $1,670 worth of gift cards to someone he thought was with the terrorist organization, intended to be resold on the dark web to profit the “war on kuffar,” or nonbelievers, according to an FBI complaint filed in federal court.

He allegedly shared the gift cards with an undercover FBI employee acting as an ISIS supporter via a messaging app, who he started communicating with as a minor. The goal of the gift cards was to remain “untraceable,” the complaint states.

Ventura also allegedly donated $965 to the terrorist group before he turned 18 in December 2022. He provided another $705 in gift cards between January and May, authorities said. In total, he allegedly sent $1,670 in 42 different donations, according to the FBI.

The cards ranged in value from $10 to $100. Most were from the Google Play Store, but some were from GameStop, Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods, according to the complaint.

Ventura was charged with one count of knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he can face “up to 10 years in prison, up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts.

Ventura also allegedly took a pledge of allegiance to ISIS and disclosed to the undercover FBI agent that he wanted to travel abroad to join the group.

On April 10, Ventura allegedly booked a flight from Boston to Cairo, which he did not get on for unknown reasons.

On the same day, Ventura allegedly reached out to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center demanding $10 million dollars in duffle bags and immunity in exchange for information on planned ISIS attacks.

Ventura was arrested at his Wakefield, Massachusetts, home on Thursday where he lives with his father, Paul Ventura, NBC Boston reported.

Paul told the outlet that he doesn’t believe his son was trying to fund ISIS.

“I know for a fact he’s not a terrorist,” he told NBC Boston, adding that his son has learning disabilities and health issues.

Ventura appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon and was ordered detained. A detention hearing is set for Wednesday, according to online records.

An attorney for Ventura did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Source: NBC News