How Virginia Teen Used Bitcoin to Support Terrorism; Judge Sentences Him to more than 11 Years


A Virginia teenager sentenced to more than 11 years in jail for supporting terrorism used bitcoin to instruct aspiring jihadists how to mask terrorist funding activities.

U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced Ali Shukri Amin, 17, of Manassas, Va. to 136 months in prison along with a lifetime of supervision for conspiring to support a terrorist group, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Amin, who pled guilty on June 11, 201, admitted to using Twitter to provide advice and encouragement to ISIL and its supporters, according to court documents. Using Twitter handle @Amreekiwitness, he provided instruction on how to use bitcoin to mask the provision of funds to ISIL, as well as to facilitate ISIL supporters interested in traveling to Syria to join ISIL.

According to a court document posted on arstechnica.co.uk, Amin tweeted a link to an article on or about July 7, 2014 titled, “Bitcoin wa’ Sadaqat al-Jihad” (Bitcoin and the Charity of Jihad.) The link sent the user to the article on the defendant’s blog. It explained how to use bitcoins and how jihadists could utilize the currency to fund their activities.

Blog Instructed Terrorists In Using Bitcoin

The article on the blog explained how bitcoin works and suggested using Dark Wallet. It discussed how to set up an anonymous donation system to send bitcoin to the mujahedeen.

Amin also created a blog containing a series of technical articles targeted at jihadists and ISIL supporters on using security measures in online communications. The blog addressed the use of encryption and anonymity software, tools and techniques, as well as the use of bitcoin.

Amin admitted facilitating travel for Reza Niknejad, an 18-year-old Prince William County resident who went to Syria in January 2015 to join ISIL. The Eastern District of Virginia charged Niknejad on June 10, 2015, with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, as well as conspiring to provide material support to ISIL to kill and injure people abroad.

Ali Shukri Amin was an honor student and was originally from Iran, according to The InquistR now-defunct Twitter handle about how jihadists could use bitcoin “to fund their efforts.”

FBI Investigated Activities

fbi-sealThe FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated Amin’s activities. Michael P. Ben’Ary, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Caroline H. Friedman, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case. Trial Attorney Stephen Sewell of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section provided assistance.

“Today’s sentencing demonstrates that those who use social media as a tool to provide support and resources to ISIL will be identified and prosecuted with no less vigilance than those who travel to take up arms with ISIL,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Department of Justice will continue to pursue those that travel to fight against the United States and our allies, as well as those individuals that recruit others on behalf of ISIL in the homeland.

 

 

“Ali Shukri Amin is a young American who used social media to provide material support to ISIL,” said John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

ISIL continues to use social media to send their violent and hateful message around the world in an attempt to radicalize, recruit and incite youth and others to support their cause. More and more, their propaganda is seeping into our communities and reaching those who are most vulnerable. The Department of Justice will continue to use all tools to disrupt the threats that ISIL poses, and our efforts will be furthered by parents and other members of our community willing to take action to confront and deter this threat wherever it may surface.

Also read: Hacktivist groups join fight against ISIS

Online Radicalization On The Rise

Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., Field Office, said the case serves as a reminder of how persistent and pervasive online radicalization has become. “The FBI, through our Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), remains dedicated to protecting the United States against the ongoing violent threat posed by ISIL and their supporters,” he said. “Today marks a personal tragedy for the Amin family and the community as we have lost yet another young person to the allure of extremist ideology focused on hatred.”

Stephan Hudson, Chief of the Prince William County, Virginia, Police Department, said school staff followed up by the School Resource Officer made observations about the teen’s suspicious behavior.

Those observations were quickly relayed to our partners with the JTTF who acted upon this information very quickly. We greatly appreciate that these observations were observed and reported to the proper authorities proved to be instrumental in the overall investigation in stopping a dangerous network such as ISIL from further infiltrating our community.

Images from Shutterstock.