At just 16, federal officials charge, Mateo Ventura began communicating online with somebody he thought belonged to ISIS about how to help the group achieve victory - even to the point of going on a "martyrdom" mission - which could mean his death - overseas.
But yesterday, two years after Ventura, now 18, first chatted with a man who was actually an FBI agent versed in Arabic and ISIS terminology, he was arrested on a federal count of knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
He is scheduled for arraignment this afternoon in Worcester federal court, according to the US Attorney's office. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in federal prison:
Ventura provided multiple gift cards to an individual he believed was an ISIS supporter, with the intention that the gift cards be sold on the dark web for a little less than face value and resulting profits be used to support ISIS. Ventura allegedly stated that he wanted the proceeds to go to ISIS “for war on kuffar,” (disbelievers). In total, it is alleged that between January and May 2023, Ventura donated $705 intended to support ISIS.
An affidavit by an FBI agent in the case says Ventura had extensive communications with an "FBI employee acting in an undercover capacity" in 2021 about providing financial aid to ISIS and even eventually going overseas for "hijrah" or to join their fight directly. But in September, 2022, two months before he turned 18, he wrote he could not because he "get hurt very bad in fall and can no longer walk."
FBI surveillance, however, showed Ventura could walk just fine, the affidavit states.
On Jan. 25 of this year, the affidavit continues, Ventura contacted the undercover agent again and said he wanted to go on hijrah as soon as possible.
I have lots of cash now that I want to give to Ikwah [ISIS brothers] and want to give sadaqah [donations] before leave.
OCE [the undercover agent]: Ok akhi khair [benevolent brother]. But also must be sure u no support
murtad [apostate] or munafiq [false Muslim] group. I not help if so. What group u support akhi [brother]?
VENTURA: The khilafa [the Caliphate] brother
OCE: Many lion online say they support dawla [the State]. But only from behind keyboard no willing to make sacrifice.
VENTURA: Yea I know only a very brave brother would. ...
OCE: Why u want make hijrah? U want emmigrate or want be mujahideen [Islamic fighters]?
VENTURA: Mujahideen 2 [fighter] Akhi [brother]
OCE: Alhamdulillah [praise be to God] may Allah azzawajal [the Majestic] grant you a path.
OCE: U are strong akhi [brother]? Healthy?
OCE: Life of a mujahideen [fighter] not easy.
VENTURA: Very strong healthy