The US Justice Department has taken down the efforts by the military wing of al Qaeda, Hamas, and Islamic State to raise funds via cryptos through schemes that sold bogus COVID-19 safety equipment to US hospitals.
The agency said they seized about $2 million in the largest ever move by the US against the use of cryptos by militant groups. Authorities confiscated over 300 crypto accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages.
All 150 cryptocurrency accounts used to launder funds were seized, investigators said. The department said in a statement,
“These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context.”
Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Justice Department were all involved in the investigation to take down the fundraising schemes.
During the probe, the US agents operated an undercover website mirroring a Hamas website for 30 days, said John Demers, head of Justice Department’s national security division.
Using FaceMackCenter.com website, the militant groups peddled the personal protective equipment touted as approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, which in actuality “were not FDA approved,” to first responders, nursing homes, and US hospitals.
Investigators also reported that the payments were collected through US credit cards and PayPal, but the equipment was never delivered.
The Islamic State promoted its scheme via Facebook accounts while AL Qaeda solicited donation for its scheme through the Telegram app.
“Nothing was hidden,” said one U.S. official, “They thought they were protected” by the encryption in the apps they used.