Like anything, terrorism costs money, but it’s not easy for individuals marked as extremists to transfer significant amounts of cash.
Government officials watch for such transactions, forcing extremists to find other ways to send money where they want it to go. For alleged American Islamic State conspirator Mohamed Elshinawy, that meant pretending to sell printers on eBay.
Elshinawy received $8,700 from folks the FBI believes he knew were in the ISIS orbit, according to an FBI affidavit that was just unsealed. Of that money, he got $1,000 from a Western Union transfer, $1,200 from the printer scheme, and the rest in other payments made through PayPal.
The Maryland resident, who’s in his 30s and allegedly pledged his loyalty to ISIS, got the money from a company run by a Syria-based member of ISIS named Siful Sujan. Sujan was allegedly in charge of all computer-related things for the extremist group until he was killed by a drone late in 2015.
Elshinawy’s cash was supposed to be designated for items geared toward operations, though he told the FBI he was just trying to scheme some ISIS dudes out of money. He used that money to buy a phone and a laptop, and to set up a virtual private network, usually just called a “VPN,” which hides a user’s internet activity from prying eyes, though it doesn’t appear to have kept him hidden from the United States government.
Elshinawy was arrested in 2016. He plead not guilty, and hasn’t yet gone to trial.
The American is allegedly just one of a network of ISIS associates who got money in similar ways as the group tried to fund its extremism outside of its base in Syria and Iraq.
Update 2:24 p.m. ET, Aug. 11: This article has been updated to reflect a more detailed breakdown of the payments Elshinawy allegedly received from people believed to be associated with ISIS. Elshinawy did not allegedly receive all $8,700 through fake sales of printers on eBay, as was stated earlier.