By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors said Thursday that they had charged a Long Island, New York woman with laundering more than $85,000 in fraudulently obtained money through Bitcoin to help Islamic State.
Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, was arrested Wednesday on charges of bank fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde in Brooklyn announced. Shahnaz pleaded not guilty on Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Tomlinson in Central Islip, New York, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for Rohde’s office.
A lawyer for Shahnaz, Steve Zissou, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Prosecutors said that between March and July of this year, Shahnaz obtained a loan and multiple credit cards by making false representations to financial institutions, and used them to buy Bitcoin.
They said she then laundered the money through illicit transactions involving shell companies in Pakistan, China and Turkey with the ultimate goal of using the money to benefit Islamic State.
In July, prosecutors said, Shahnaz sought to travel to Syria, but was stopped and questioned by law enforcement at John F. Kennedy International Airport when she tried to board a flight to Islamabad, Pakistan.
The most serious charge, bank fraud, carries 30 years in prison, according to Rohde’s office.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)