Feds charge New York woman with sending bitcoins to support ISIS

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A woman in Long Island, New York, has been charged with money laundering in support of a terrorist organization after she allegedly borrowed money that she used to buy bitcoins to support ISIS.

Zoobia Shahnaz "defrauded numerous financial institutions and obtained over $85,000 in illicit proceeds, which she converted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies," according to a press release from federal prosecutors. She then alleged sent the funds outside the United States to support the actions of the Islamic State.

Shahnaz next tried to fly to Turkey. Federal prosecutors say she was ultimately bound for Syria, but they detained her at New York's John F. Kennedy airport.

The press release states that Shahnaz "fraudulently applied for over a dozen credit cards, which she used to purchase approximately $62,000 in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies online." She also obtained a $22,500 loan, which the feds say were obtained through fraudulent means.

Bitcoin is often described as an anonymous payment network, but that's not exactly true. You don't need to disclose your identity to use the Bitcoin network. But Bitcoin's blockchain is public, which means that anyone—including federal prosecutors—can examine the complete record of every bitcoin transaction ever made.

Moreover, mainstream Bitcoin exchanges generally do require customers to provide their identities before they can buy or sell bitcoins. And federal prosecutors can often subpoena these records to link a blockchain address with a real-world identity. With such details, Bitcoin is far from an untraceable method to conduct illicit transactions.

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