A 33-year-old Indian-American from Virginia is charged with providing financial support to Islamic State women overseas, hoping to smuggle them out of a refugee camp in Syria, a media report said.
Mohammed Azharuddin Chhipa, began using social media to fundraise for "sisters" in the al-Hol camp in Syria beginning in 2019, claiming the money was for "shelter", the Washington Post reported, citing a last week FBI filing.
The al-Hol refugee camp "is assessed to be a stronghold of ISIS ideology", the FBI said, stating in the filing that many women in this camp were married to Islamic State fighters who were killed or captured on the battlefield.
Chhipa, presently held in jail after making an initial appearance in Alexandria federal court on May 5, may face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
An FBI search of Chhipa's home in 2019 resulted in "thousands of videos, pictures, essays, books, notes, and search histories about extremist ideology, jihad, ISIS, and violent propaganda on multiple devices, " The Post said.
The FBI also found instructions on how to build explosive devices and "images depicting what appears to be a beheading of an ISIS prisoner".
In its filing, the intelligence organisation alleged that from late 2019 to 2022, Chhipa purchased USD172, 000 in virtual currency and also collected USD15, 000 in digital funds from others.
More than USD18, 000 "went to wallets that were used by ISIS women located in Syria, " an FBI agent alleged in a court filing, adding that the total funds Chhipa sent to smuggle the women out of the Syrian camp could be much higher.
In August 2021, Chhipa met an undercover FBI employee, collected USD300, and wired it to his female Islamic State contact in Syria, according to the FBI affidavit.
He collected another USD120 in October 2021, USD260 in November 2021, and USD160 in January 2022 from the same undercover FBI employee.
During these three occasions, Chhipa remained in his vehicle while his mother retrieved the cash, and then he transmitted it to his female contact in Syria, according to the filing.
PayPal blocked an account he had been using to receive funds in March 2021.
The Post said citing media reports that Chhipa was taken into custody at a migrant detention center near the Mexican-Guatemalan border and deported to the US on August 16, 2019.
However, the FBI affidavit tells nothing about Chhipa being deported back to the US.
A court hearing on Wednesday will determine whether Chhipa should be held in jail pending trial.