A senior official for the Islamic State used phony eBay deals to funnel money to an operative living in the US, according to an unsealed FBI affidavit.
The alleged US operative, Maryland-based Mohamed Elshinawy, was charged with attempting to support ISIS in December 2015. Federal agents believed he was selling computer printers on eBay as a front for receiving funds via PayPal from the terrorist organization, the Wall Street Journal reports. The funds allegedly came from Siful Sujan, who was killed in a 2015 drone attack. The $8,700 Elshinawy received from Sujan was allegedly intended to help fund a terrorist attack.
Elshinawy was convicted after investigators reviewed his Western Union and PayPal records. Investigators subpoenaed eBay, which provided Elshinawy’s account and transaction information.
An affidavit shows that $1,200 of the funds came through Elshinawy’s eBay scheme. Federal agents believed that much of the $8,700 Elshinawy received from ISIS through multiple means was used to purchase a laptop, calling cards, a private VPN networks, and a hotspot—all of which were apparently used to communicate with ISIS. Elshinawy told officials he did not plan on using the money for an attack, but rather, wanted to take money from “thieves” and spend it on furniture. But the agent who wrote the affidavit said this was probably a cover story.
A spokesperson for PayPal told Gizmodo it is working with law enforcement on this investigation and that the “company proactively reports any suspicious activities, investing significant time and resources into our vigilant efforts to prevent terrorist activity on the PayPal platform.”
Ebay sent Gizmodo the statement it had given other outlets, saying the company “has zero tolerance for criminal activity on our marketplace and we worked with law enforcement to bring this individual to justice.”
Elshinawy claimed that he was not advised on how he should use the money to stage an attack on US soil, but was given the then-recent Draw Muhammed Contest shooting in Texas as an example.
Update 1:20 pm: Ebay responded to the Wall Street Journal article with this statement: