Washington — Three Americans and a Canadian were charged with providing material support to the Islamic State (ISIS), the Justice Department announced Thursday, accusing them of fundraising for the terrorist organization and using misleading and covert communications and posts to avoid scrutiny.
Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York allege Mohammad David Hashimi of Virginia, Abdullah At Taqi of New York, Seema Rahman of New Jersey and Khalilullah Yousuf of Ontario, Canada, worked with an unnamed “facilitator” apparently connected to ISIS’ central media organization to garner financial support for the terrorist group using Bitcoin and fundraising sites like GoFundMe.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed this week, the defendants allegedly worked in various ways to raise more than $35,000 worth of cryptocurrency and other monetary donations. In many cases, investigators say, the ISIS facilitator instructed the defendants and their associates to post fake campaigns and create false causes for their initiatives “in order to deceive” and avoid scrutiny.
The fundraising site accounts they used appear to have been purposely misleading and did not indicate what the funds would be actually used for, one campaign even reading, “Help raise funds for some needy families for Eid,” court documents say. Other pages read, “Widow in Need of Assistance” and “Ramadan Appeal for Gaza,” apparently to keep investigators from discovering their purpose.
Hashimi and Yousuf are accused of being part of an encrypted group chat with supporters of ISIS and “other groups that adhere to similar violent jihadist ideologies.” As early as April 2021, an unnamed member of the chat wrote, “post all serious donation links that helps our mujahideen…”For safety reason, post just the links without telling for what the money is being used.”
In response, prosecutors allege Yousuf posted in the same chat a Bitcoin address controlled by the ISIS facilitator, writing, “If anyone wants to donate to actual mujahideen in the battlefield…Thisbrother is legit^^^.”
Charging documents allege the money raised by the group was for individuals fighting on behalf of ISIS. The charging documents also alleged that in January, Taqi said that he originally contributed funds to someone who was killed.
“All we really need is maybe like 100,000 fighters and biidhnillah the Muslims could conquer the world cause most of our enemies are cowards,” Taqi allegedly wrote via an encrypted messaging platform with a confidential human source who investigators say had been working with them since October 2021.
The confidential human source and the unnamed ISIS facilitator went on to communicate frequently and on June 8, 2022, the source asked the facilitator to prove the money was being raised for actual ISIS members. The facilitator responded with an image depicting weapons, including what appear to be grenades, laid out on an ISIS flag.
“I am responsible for the donations that come to a country and I transfer them to the Mujahideen in all the states,” the unnamed ISIS intermediary allegedly told the FBI’s human source.
Investigators allege Hashimi’s words and social media posts indicated his “support for ISIS and extremist causes,” at one point telling another he would be willing to “die on the battlefield.” And in a series of messages, Rahman told Hashimi that her parents were “threatening to report both of them” for their alleged conduct.
“I obviously don’t want to go to jail either,” she allegedly wrote to Hashimi, and in another instance imploring, “Can you help me plan…I am a térrörist to them.”
Hashimi, Taqi and Rahman were arrested Wednesday in Virginia, New York, and New Jersey, respectively, the Justice Department said, and Yousuf was also arrested on Dec. 14 by Canadian law enforcement at the request of the U.S.
“The accusations in this complaint, while extremely serious in nature, are nonetheless just that, accusations. As it currently stands, Ms. Rahman is, and remains, innocent until proven guilty. To that end, she looks forward to her day in Court,” Rahman’s attorney, Jeff Greco, said in a statement to CBS News. She intends to enter a plea of not guilty.
Taqi’s public defender declined to comment.
A legal representative for Hashimi could not immediately be identified.