Wakefield man, 18, indicted for allegedly trying to donate $705 to ISIS

Crime

Mateo Ventura allegedly sent gift cards to an undercover FBI agent posing as an ISIS operative.

An 18-year-old Wakefield man was indicted Tuesday and accused of trying to donate money to ISIS by sending hundreds of dollars in gift cards to an undercover FBI agent he believed was connected to the terrorist group. 

A federal grand jury in Boston indicted Mateo Ventura on one count of knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. Ventura was previously arrested and charged by criminal complaint in June and will appear in federal court at a later date. 

He’s accused of donating $705 to support ISIS between January and May 2023, acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy’s office said in a news release. Prosecutors allege that Ventura provided multiple gift cards to someone he believed was an ISIS operative, intending for the cards to be sold on the dark web and the profit sent to ISIS “for war on kuffar,” or disbelievers. 

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

According to an affidavit filed by FBI agent Paul Lagno in June, Ventura communicated online with an undercover FBI agent about providing financial support to ISIS and his desire to travel abroad and join the jihadist group. He allegedly sent about $965 in gift cards to the agent while still a juvenile and $705 as an adult, though he is currently only charged in connection with the money he sent after he turned 18.

Ventura allegedly sent an audio recording pledging allegiance to ISIS’s leader and told the undercover agent in another message that he had “skill in weapons” and “would carry out shaheed [martyr] operation if wanted.” 

According to the affidavit, Ventura booked six flights abroad on Feb. 28, though he never paid for them and the airline didn’t issue the tickets. He later purchased a ticket to Cairo in April but didn’t leave home and never canceled or rescheduled his flight.

Prosecutors allege that Ventura called the FBI Boston Operations Center multiple times and requested to speak with an agent about upcoming terror attacks, also sending an online tip to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center requesting $10 million and immunity in exchange for information he believed would stop an ISIS attack. He was eventually told that the information he provided was not specific enough for authorities to act, according to the affidavit. 

William A. Korman, an attorney for Ventura, told The Boston Globe that his client isn’t dangerous, but is “troubled and needs some significant mental help.”

“I think it’s a shame that the government is taking this heavy-handed approach to the case,” Korman told the newspaper. “Mr. Ventura clearly has some deep-seated psychological issues, and that’s what this case is about. The tail is wagging the dog here.”

Boston.com has reached out to Korman for comment. 

According to the Associated Press, Ventura’s father told reporters in June that his son has learning and developmental issues and is being “railroaded” by federal authorities.

“My son said, ‘Dad, I don’t understand, I didn’t do anything wrong,’” when the FBI came to the door and arrested him, Paul Ventura reportedly said at the time.

If convicted, Mateo Ventura faces 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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