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Wakefield man, 18, arrested for alleged plot to support ISIS with gift cards

Since 2021, Mateo Ventura allegedly exchanged messages with an undercover FBI agent posing as an ISIS supporter.

An 18-year-old from Wakefield was arrested Thursday for allegedly purchasing and sending multiple electronic gift cards to a person he believed to be an ISIS operative, with the understanding that the cards would be sold to support the terrorist organization. 

Mateo Ventura faces one count of knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy’s office.

In total, he is alleged to have sent $1,670 in electronic gift cards.

Ventura’s arrest is the culmination of an investigation that began in August 2021. It was then that Ventura allegedly began communicating with an undercover FBI agent posing as an ISIS supporter. They used an encrypted messaging service known by law enforcement officials for its use among ISIS supporters, according to an affidavit filed by FBI agent Paul Lagno Wednesday.


Ventura initially contacted the undercover agent to learn more about “making hijrah,” a term that refers to traveling overseas to fight with ISIS, according to the affidavit. Ventura allegedly told the undercover agent that he wanted to become a fighter for the organization. 

Ventura allegedly said that he had “skill in weapons” and “would carry out shaheed [martyr] operation if wanted.”

“If done right they can kill many kuffar [disbeliever],” Ventura allegedly said when asked why he wanted to help ISIS. 

Ventura allegedly said he could learn Arabic and sent an audio file containing a pledge of allegiance to ISIS’s leader. 

The undercover agent asked Ventura if he would be interested in providing monetary donations to ISIS, and the two arranged for the transmission of codes from electronic gift cards purchased by Ventura, according to the affidavit. When asked what he would want the money to be used for, Ventura allegedly told the undercover agent that the cards should be sold on the darkweb, with the belief that this would enable the funds to be used to directly support the “fight against kuffar,” or disbelievers. 


Last September, Ventura allegedly told the undercover agent that he could no longer travel to join ISIS because he got hurt in a fall and could “no longer walk.” Lagno found that Ventura had not actually been injured and could walk, according to the affidavit.

In February, law enforcement officials learned that Ventura had booked flight tickets six separate times within a one hour period for a trip to the Middle East, but no form of payment was entered and the tickets were not issued, according to the affidavit.

On April 10, Ventura bought a ticket for a Turkish Airlines flight from Boston to Cairo departing that evening, Lagno wrote. Ventura sent a screenshot confirming the flight itinerary to the undercover agent.

But Ventura never left his home that night. He did not cancel or reschedule the flight either, according to the affidavit.

At about 10:50 p.m. on April 10, the FBI received an anonymous tip allegedly made by Ventura requesting $10 million in exchange for information about imminent attacks.

Ventura contacted the FBI multiple times in the following days, telling agents that he knew about upcoming terrorist attacks and wanting to “make the deal,” Lagno wrote.

FBI agents told Ventura that the information he provided was not specific enough to be actionable, Lagno wrote. Ventura allegedly later told agents that he accepted the FBI’s decision and requested that they not contact him again.


“There is spy’s in you’re ranks,” Ventura allegedly told the undercover agent on April 21.

Between August 2021 and August 2022, while still a juvenile, Ventura allegedly sent 26 gift cards totaling $965. From January to May 2023, after he turned 18, Ventura allegedly sent 16 gift cards totaling $705 to the undercover agent with the understanding that the money from their resale would be used to support ISIS and its fighters. 

The charge of knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.


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