By Mirna Alsharif - NBC News
A Massachusetts teenager was charged Thursday for his alleged role in an illegal gift card operation to try to raise money to support the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to officials.
Matthew Ventura, 18, allegedly donated $1,670 in gift cards to someone he believed was linked to the terrorist organization, intending them to be resold on the dark web to fund the "war on the kuffar," according to an FBI document filed in federal court.
It is alleged that the young man shared the gift cards with an undercover FBI agent, who posed as an ISIS follower on a messaging app, and with whom the defendant began communicating when he was a minor. The purpose of using the gift cards was to remain "untraceable," the document said.
ISIS militants patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, in a military vehicle seized from Iraqi security forces, in 2014.Uncredited/Associated Press
Ventura also allegedly donated $965 to the terrorist group before he turned 18 in December 2022. He also provided another $705 in gift cards between January and May, officials said. In total, he is supposed to have sent $1,670 in 42 donations, according to the FBI.
The cards ranged in value from $10 to $100. Most were from the Google Play Store, but some were from GameStop, Amazon and Dick's Sporting Goods, according to the text in court.
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Ventura was charged with one count of knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources for a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he faces "up to 10 years in prison, up to a lifetime of probation and a fine of up to $250,000," according to a press release from the Massachusetts District Attorney's Office.
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Ventura also allegedly swore allegiance to ISIS and revealed to the undercover FBI agent that he wanted to travel abroad to join the group. It is alleged that on April 10 Ventura booked a flight from Boston to Cairo, which he did not take for unknown reasons.
On the same day, Ventura allegedly contacted the National Threat Operations Center and demanded $10 million inside bags and immunity in exchange for information about planned ISIS attacks.
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Ventura was arrested at his home in Wakefield, Massachusetts, where he lives with his father, Paul Ventura, NBC Boston reported.
Paul told the station that he did not believe his son was trying to fund the terrorist group. "I know for a fact he's not a terrorist," she told NBC Boston, adding that her son has learning disabilities and health problems.
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Ventura appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon, where he was ordered detained. An apprehension hearing is set for Wednesday, according to online records.
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An attorney for Ventura did not immediately respond to requests for comment.