DOJ announces largest terrorism-related cryptocurrency seizure

By Kellie Mejdrich 08/13/2020 01:08 PM EDT

The Department of Justice on Thursday announced its largest seizure of cryptocurrency related to terrorism- financing campaigns.

One of those campaigns involved a sham website called that was funneling money to ISIS while falsely claiming to be selling face masks to protect against the coronavirus, federal officials charged.

DOJ officials confirmed that the total dollar value seized was about $2 million from three different financing campaigns. They said the action would halt funding streams set up to send cryptocurrency to ISIS, al-Qaeda, and al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic political party Hamas. Agencies involved in the case included the IRS, ICE and a counter-terrorism division at the FBI, as well as the DOJ.

According to an affidavit from an IRS special agent working on the case and the unsealed forfeiture complaints, federal officials charge that several terrorist groups used social media along with Bitcoin and other digital currencies to run the illegal fundraising campaigns. The DOJ said the perpetrators used Facebook and other websites to solicit donations, which were then involved in money laundering, unlicensed money transmitting, terrorism financing and fraud related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The total dollar amount subject to forfeiture was several million dollars greater than $2 million, DOJ said, though officials declined to offer a more specific number. The legal actions involve seizures of “over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the criminal enterprise,” DOJ said in a press release.

“It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

According to court records, participants in the face mask-related scheme were marketing their products to customers in the U.S. Officials declined to specify the dollar amount involved in the ISIS scheme in particular.

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