New York City woman charged with financing terrorist groups in Syria through cryptocurrency

The woman also allegedly bought Google Play gift cards for terrorist groups.

February 1, 2023, 4:47 PM

A New York City woman has been charged with using cryptocurrency to provide financial support to terrorist groups in Syria, a rare prosecution involving virtual currency to fund terrorism.

The 11-count indictment charged Victoria Jacobs, 43, who was known as Bakhrom Talipov, with providing support for an act of terrorism, money laundering and other crimes.

Jacobs provided material support to Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, a U.S. State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization, and provided more than $5,000 to the terrorist training group Malhama Tactical, which fought with and provided special tactical and military training to Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, the indictment said.

"This case marks the first time that terrorism financing is being prosecuted in New York State Court and is one of the rare cases worldwide where cryptocurrency is alleged to have financed terrorism," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.

Jacobs allegedly laundered $10,661 on behalf of Malhama Tactical by receiving cryptocurrency and Western Union and MoneyGram wires from supporters around the globe and sending the funds to Bitcoin wallets controlled by Malhama Tactical. In addition to sending cryptocurrency, she also purchased Google Play gift cards for the organization, according to the indictment.

In October 2018, the defendant saved notes on her cellphone, which the indictment quoted as saying "Assalamu aleykum my dear brothers and sisters, we currently are buildings new place (train camp), it's getting cold and we need new place, who want help us and support can do this safely and anonymously by Bitcoin wallet. Send me DM for details. Retweet."

Representations of cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Ethereum, DogeCoin, Ripple and Litecoin are placed on PC motherboard in this illustration taken, June 29, 2021.
Dado Ruvic/Reuters/Illustration, FILE

In December 2019, Jacobs provided a comprehensive U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook to an online group -- which she believed was associated with both Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and al-Qaeda affiliated Jihadist group Hurras al-Din -- to facilitate their bomb-making efforts in Syria, the indictment said.

Prosecutors said Jacobs bought military-style combat knives, metal knuckles and throwing stars in August 2021 that were found in her Upper East Side apartment.

"Disturbingly, approximately one month later, on September 21-22, 2021, the defendant, in a Telegram chat, claimed to be a 'brother' who was 'behind enemy lines' and asked for prayers for the 'courage, strength, guidance, and wisdom to carry out certain missions,'" Assistant District Attorney Edward Burns said in a court filing.

"Along with these statements, defendant posted a 15-second video clip of an unknown person ominously moving around with a firearm," he continued. "The timing of this post and the defendant's acquisition of the weapons supports the conclusion that she intended to use the weapons in an unlawful manner."

Jacobs is being held without bail.

In a parallel investigation, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged four defendants in December with crowdfunding support for ISIS using cryptocurrency, Bitcoin wallets, GoFundMe and PayPal to collect what they called "blood money."