18 Years In Prison for NYC Woman Behind Bitcoin Terrorism Financing in Syria

Victoria Jacobs, aka Bakhrom Talipov, was sentenced to 18 years in prison by a New York State court jury after being found guilty of funding Syrian terrorism through Bitcoin.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office said Jacobs was “fully immersed in online terrorist ecosystems,” as per their press release. She played a critical role in “raising and laundering thousands of dollars” for Syrian terrorist groups. District Attorney Alvin Bragg commented:

“From the safety of her Manhattan apartment, she enabled these groups to access our city’s financial markets in order to help further their mission.”

On February 1st, 2024, Jacobs was convicted by a New York State Supreme Court jury. She was found guilty on all counts, including Soliciting or Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism, Money Laundering, Criminal Possession of a Weapon, and more. 

NEW: Today we announced the sentencing of Victoria Jacobs to 18 years in state prison for using cryptocurrency to provide financial support to violent terrorist groups operating in Syria. Learn more here: https://t.co/8mz4JpDOsu

— Alvin Bragg (@ManhattanDA) April 30, 2024

The sentencing was the culmination of a year-and-a-half-long investigation by the NYPD, Intelligence Bureau and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Counter Terrorism Unit. 

How Bitcoin Played a Role in the Terrorism Financing

From September 2018 to June 2019, Jacobs provided material support to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, a Syria-based terrorist organization. 

She contributed more than $6,000 to the terrorist training group “Malhama Tactical,” which fought with and provided special tactical and military training to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. 

Over $12,000 was also laundered on behalf of Malhama Tactical using cryptocurrency, Western Union and MoneyGram wire transfers.

The funds were raised from supporters all over the world and sent to Malhama Tactical-controlled Bitcoin wallets.

Exploiting cryptocurrency allowed the organization to carry out its illegal activities without intervention. It gave them anonymity and freedom from the oversight of intermediaries present in traditional payment systems. 

In December 2019, Jacobs provided a comprehensive U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook to an online group to facilitate bomb-making efforts in Syria.

She also bought military-style combat knives, metal knuckles, and throwing stars in August 2021, intending to distribute them.

Jacobs posted in online forums that she was a “brother” who was “behind enemy lines,” and asked for prayers for the “courage, strength, guidance, and wisdom to carry out certain missions.” 

The Global Fight Against Crypto Crime

As crypto adoption rises, it has become increasingly prevalent in terrorism funding, scam operations, organized crime, and money laundering schemes. 

Something that has proven to be a struggle for countries like India as they grapple with regulatory Ambiguity surrounding how they are addressed, often leaving victims in the dark.

Gaurav Mehta, social activist and CEO of Dharma Life, explained how this regulatory ambiguity provides a fertile ground for criminals in a Cryptonews interview.  

“The absence of regulation further emboldens criminals, as the existing justice system and law enforcement agencies lack the focus, capacity, and competency to combat crypto-related crimes. This regulatory void leaves victims in a state of helplessness.”

Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have established more regulatory baselines in an effort to curb crypto-related crime.

A recent bill passed into UK law increased local authorities’ power to intervene. This was done in an effort to “make it easier to take assets which are known to have been criminally obtained, even if sophisticated criminals are able to protect their anonymity or are based overseas.”

The change has been crucial in combating the use of cryptocurrency in organized crime, exploiting decentralization to prevent intervention. Adrian Foster, the Chief Crown Prosecutor, said:

“It is vital that investigators and prosecutors have the capability and agility to keep pace with this changing nature of crime which these new measures will greatly assist our ability to restrain, freeze, or eliminate crypto assets from the illegal enterprise”


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