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US seizes $2million in cryptocurrency from terror groups including ISIS and the military wing of Hamas in largest ever government takeover of online extremist fundraising

The U.S. Justice Department seized $2million from more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts linked to overseas terror organizations, it announced Thursday. 
The department said three Middle East terrorist groups used cryptocurrencies and social media to finance their operations and raise funds for their terror campaigns.
The groups made money though schemes that included selling bogus COVID-19 safety equipment to US hospitals, then using the funding to buy weapons and train fighters. 
The US dismantled the elaborate cyber campaign this week in the largest ever seizure of its kind. 
The groups involved included Hamas's military wing, al-Qassam Brigades; al-Qaeda; and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS  
Attorney General William Barr, pictured, announced the seizure Thursday
Attorney General William Barr, pictured, announced the seizure Thursday
Terror groups were using online campaigns such as this to attract cryptocurrency donations
Terror groups were using online campaigns such as this to attract cryptocurrency donations
The overseas terror organizations told donors that donating via cryptocurrency could not be tracked but the US government infiltrated the scheme and took over one of their websites
The overseas terror organizations told donors that donating via cryptocurrency could not be tracked but the US government infiltrated the scheme and took over one of their websites
'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 release Thursday.
 'As announced today, we will seize the funds and the instrumentalities that provide a lifeline for their operations whenever possible.'
'Terrorist networks have adapted to technology, conducting complex financial transactions in the digital world, including through cryptocurrencies,' Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin added.
'IRS-CI special agents in the DC cybercrimes unit work diligently to unravel these financial networks.'

As well as seizing the $2million-worth of cryptocurrency and the 300 cryptocurrency accounts, US authorities also took over four websites and four Facebook pages linked with the fundraising activities.   
The Trump administration said the groups used the accounts to solicit donations for their causes.
The take-down of the fundraising campaigns involved undercover law enforcement work and forfeiture complaints filed in Washington's federal court, the department revealed. 
It is meant to deprive the organizations of funds needed to buy weapons and equipment and develop fighters and plots, Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the department's top national security official, said. 
'This action shows that law enforcement remains a step ahead of them,' Demers added. 
Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the department's top national security official, said that the seizure of funds would have a massive impact on terror operations
Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the department's top national security official, said that the seizure of funds would have a massive impact on terror operations
'Two million dollars is a lot of equipment that they can buy, a lot of weapons a lot of training that they can fund, a lot of tickets to fly people around the world. This is going to make a big difference in their operation.' 
During the final stages of their probe, officials said, U.S. agents operated an undercover website mirroring a Hamas website for 30 days. 
According to the department release, the military wing of Hamas, known as the al-Qassam Brigades, began a public fundraising campaign last year through social media to solicit Bitcoin donations and reassured potential donors that such contributions would be untraceable, officials said. 
It also posted on websites instructions for how to make donations.
Posts from this fake Syrian charity explicitly referenced weapons and extremist activities and was being used to raise funds for overseas terror groups through social media
Posts from this fake Syrian charity explicitly referenced weapons and extremist activities and was being used to raise funds for overseas terror groups through social media 
This al-Qassam Brigades boasted that bitcoin donations were untraceable and would be used for violent causes but it was ultimately seized by the US Department of Justice
This al-Qassam Brigades boasted that bitcoin donations were untraceable and would be used for violent causes but it was ultimately seized by the US Department of Justice
The US secretly took over a website run by the Brigade and used it to monitor those who believed they were giving funds to the terror group. 
Instead, they were donating money to an account controlled by the US Government.  
Law enforcement officials ultimately seized more than 150 cryptocurrency accounts that they say laundered funds to accounts they thought were being operated by the al-Qassam Brigades.
'Without funding, you cannot have these operations conducted,' said Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. 
'The focus here was a very proactive effort to target these organizations in a very wide-scale manner.'
The department also identified a scheme that officials say was orchestrated by an IS associate who manages certain hacking operations for the group.
Prosecutors say the man, named as Murat Cakar, registered a website in Turkey through which he claimed to sell medically authorized face masks for the coronavirus. 
It promoted its alleged wares through Facebook accounts. 
One bogus scheme posed as a website selling masks but was really raising money for ISIS
One bogus scheme posed as a website selling masks but was really raising money for ISIS
The masks were actually produced by a Turkish company and were not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The website collected payments via PayPal and U.S. credit cards, but never delivered any equipment, investigators said. 
The Justice Department said it seized that site as well as four related pages that facilitated funding for the group.
A separate scheme by al-Qaida and affiliates sought to raise funds through Bitcoin for attacks even as the groups purported to act as charities, according to the court documents.
An uncover agent for Homeland Security Investigations, part of the Department of Homeland Security, messaged the administrator of one charity asking to make donations. 
One of the websites seized by the DOJ this week for soliciting donations for terror groups
One of the websites seized by the DOJ this week for soliciting donations for terror groups
A criminal complaint filed against one of the cryptocurrency accounts involved in the online fundraising efforts shut down by the US Department of Justice this week
A criminal complaint filed against one of the cryptocurrency accounts involved in the online fundraising efforts shut down by the US Department of Justice this week
The administrator replied that he hoped for the destruction of the United States and he shared a Bitcoin wallet address for the purpose of receiving funds.
'Bullets and bombs is all affordable, but the drone stuff, its very hard to unless u have like anti aircraft stuff which is like millions of dollars,' the administrator wrote, according to court documents.
 'Here they shoot it with a ground to air missile ... its possible to hit them but hard. Or a 23mm machine gun. U know those big guns attached to a car.'
The investigation involved officials from multiple agencies, including the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and HSI.
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are favored for illicit transactions because they are perceived as hard to trace, and one of the groups explicitly encouraged donations by telling potential contributors that the money trail would be difficult for law enforcement to untangle, the department said.
The seized funds are now expected to be turned over to a fund for victims of terrorist attacks.

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