Domestic terror groups in NJ using bitcoin, gift cards to hide activities
Efforts are being ramped up to crack down on acts of domestic terrorism like the shooting rampage that took place at a Jersey City kosher supermarket in December.
The head of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness said one effective way to stop these individuals from carrying out acts of terror and extremism is to cut off their funding sources.
Director Jared Maples said domestic terrorists — groups that will carry out a violent act with a political or ideological goal in mind — frequently will raise funds through established criminal enterprises and activities, including selling counterfeit goods, trafficking weapons and drugs and smuggling cigarettes. Sometimes their operations may also involve money laundering.
One new method is using bitcoin to take advantage of its encryption and hide where the money is coming from.
“We’ve seen that with foreign terrorist organizations and we’re now starting to see that with domestic terrorist organizations and we want to make sure we ring the bell and the alarm to let folks know that’s an issue," he said.
One terror group that had been operating in Warren County, Aryan Strikeforce, was selling drugs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and then used the money to buy gift cards. The cards were then sold in order to buy guns, which they then trafficked and distributed for a possible attack.
Maples, who testified Wednesday during a Congressional hearing in Washington before the Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy, said raising awareness about this issue is important.
“The financing, where the money is, becomes a huge factor in our ability to sometimes deter one of these terrorist attacks from happening.”
Maples said that identifying domestic terror funding can be extremely difficult, especially if a group is small or only involves a “lone wolf” who may feel an allegiance to a terror organization and then they decide to launch an attack on their behalf. In this scenario, the only funds needed may be for the purchase of a single weapon or explosive device, or to rent a vehicle — transactions that normally would not attract much, if any attention.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com