The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said Thursday that a teenager from the United States had been detained on suspicion of attempting to utilize the dark web to solicit financial support for the terrorist group ISIS.
On Thursday, Mateo Ventura, 18, appeared in court on a single count of “knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization,” as stated in a U.S. Attorney’s Office news statement.
Investigators said that at 16, Ventura began conversing with an undercover FBI agent acting as a member of ISIS. According to the investigation, Ventura gave the agent 16 gift cards to various retailers, including GameStop, Google Play Store, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, with the intention that the cards would be sold on the dark web for less than their face value, with the proceeds going to support ISIS.
Investigators claim that between January 2023 and May 2023, Ventura gave a total of $705 to fund ISIS.
Investigators said Ventura specifically claimed he intended the money to go to ISIS “for war on kuffar,” or unbelievers. At one point, Ventura informed the agent he was considering leaving for the Middle East to fight for ISIS.
Outside the courthouse, Ventura’s father explained that on Thursday morning, the FBI knocked on the family’s Wakefield home door as he was getting ready for work.
When he answered the door, the police said, “Your son’s under arrest.”
The prosecutor’s office claims that Ventura may get up to 10 years in jail, a lifetime of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine if found guilty.
According to a news statement issued by the DOJ in October 2020, 27 American citizens have previously been brought home from Iraq and Syria to face charges related to their alleged support of ISIS. The first American woman to be deported from Syria or Iraq and convicted on ISIS-related terrorist charges was Samantha Sally, whose membership with the group was the focus of a Frontline PBS documentary. According to a November 2020 DOJ press release, she was given six and a half years in jail for shipping “cash and gold” to ISIS.