Gift Cards for Terrorists: How an 18-Year-Old Tried to Fund ISIS!

A teen from the United States was arrested for allegedly providing financial support to someone he thought was a supporter of the Islamic State through gift cards, which were intended to fund a supposed war on nonbelievers.

18-year-old Mateo Ventura from Wakefield, Massachusetts, was charged with intentionally concealing the source of material support or resources to a terrorist group. He appeared initially during a hearing held at a district court in Worcester on June 8th, where his request for bail remained pending. He can face a 10-year prison sentence and a hefty $250,000 fine if found guilty.

According to an FBI affidavit included in the court documents, Ventura sent about 25 gift cards with a face value worth $965 from August 2020 to August 2021 to someone he thought was a sympathizer for the terrorist group, who turned out to be an undercover agent for the FBI. Documents noted that Ventura was still a minor at that time.

However, authorities said Ventura continued to provide additional gift cards worth $705 between January and May after he turned 18. Prosecutors believed Ventura sent the gift cards so they could be sold on the dark web for slightly less than their face value to support the Islamic State group financially.

The gift cards Ventura provided ranged from $10 to $100 in value. While most of these cards were from Google Play Store, some were from other retailers, like GameStop, Amazon, and even Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Using an encrypted online messaging app, Ventura expressed his desire to travel outside the United States and join the Islamic State terrorist group. He even purchased an airplane ticket to Cairo last April, but the affidavit by the FBI said he never departed, rescheduled, or canceled his flight.

The FBI affidavit also said the encrypted messaging platform Ventura used has become one of the Islamic State’s “primary communication tools and is used by its adherents and supporters ... to communicate their support for ISIS and to plan attacks.

The teenager even sent an audio message to the undercover FBI agent posing as an Islamic State sympathizer, pledging his allegiance and support to the group.

Ventura also attempted to contact the FBI and offered to provide information about future terror attacks the Islamic State is planning in exchange for $10 million. The FBI affidavit included copies of messages exchanged between Ventura and the undercover agent, filled with words and phrases in Arabic.

But Paul Ventura, Mateo’s father, believes that his son, who had learning and developmental disabilities, is innocent and that federal authorities are “railroading” his case.

My son said, ‘Dad, I don’t understand, I didn’t do anything wrong,’” Paul Ventura said, telling what his son said when the FBI came to arrest Mateo.

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