Brentwood Woman Admits Sending Money to ISIS


A Brentwood woman has admitted sending more than $150,000 to ISIS, the international terrorist organization based in Syria and Iraq, federal prosecutors said.

Zoobia Shahnaz pleaded guilty Monday to providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization at Central Islip federal court. She was originally charged with fraud.

“Shahnaz…admitted to engaging in a complex scheme using cryptocurrencies designed to put thousands of dollars into the coffers of ISIS, a foreign terrorist organization dedicated to murder and destruction,” said Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

Prosecutors said the 28-year-old US citizen fraudulently applied for more than a dozen credit cards that she used to purchase Bitcoin, then transferred the funds to shell entities in Pakistan, China and Turkey. The ultimate destination for the money was the Islamic State, according to investigators. 

Law enforcement questioned her in July 2017 when she tried to board a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Islamabad, Pakistan with a multi-day layover in Istanbul, Turkey, which authorities said is a common point of entry for individuals travelling from Western countries to join ISIS in Syria.

Shahnaz faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert.

She is the eighth person with Long Island ties implicated in a terror plot since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Bryant Neal Vinas of Patchogue, an al-Qaeda recruit-turned-informant, was released from jail last year.

Westbury native Samir Khan, the one-time editor of al-Qaeda’s magazine, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen six years ago. Mohammad Younis of Centereach pleaded guilty in 2011 to unwittingly providing $7,000 to Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square Bomber. And Elvis Redzepagic, of Commack, was arrested in March for trying to join ISIS.

In addition, fellow Brentwood residents Marcos Alonso Zea and Justin Kaliebe were sentenced two years ago to 25 years and 13 years in prison, respectively, for trying to join al-Qaeda. And Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, who grew up in Westbury, pledged allegiance to ISIS during the Orlando massacre.