Former Bronx Teacher and His Brother Admit Making Bombs
Twin brothers from the Bronx, New York, admitted stockpiling bomb-making materials and paying students to assist in constructing explosives. Christian Toro and Tyler Toro (pictured from left) each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and unlawfully possess a destructive device, unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device, and unlawfully possessing a destructive device. Beginning in October 2017, Christian Toro, a former high school teacher, and his brother paid students from the school to put explosive material from fireworks into containers. In a search of the brothers’ residence on February 15, authorities discovered components used to build a destructive device, as well as notes referencing buying weapons and a ledger appearing to outline hours worked and payments to one of the students assisting them. Christian Toro also had instructions for manufacturing explosives on his laptop. The brothers are scheduled to be sentenced on March 26.
Long Island Woman Pleads Guilty to Laundering Stolen Money in Support of ISIS
A Long Island woman faces up to 20 years in prison after admitting on November 26 to conducting financial scams for the purpose of sending money overseas in support of ISIS. Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, of Brentwood, New York, pleaded guilty to providing material support to ISIS after wiring more than $150,000 to individuals and shell entities that were fronts for the terrorist group in Pakistan, China, and Turkey. Beginning in March 2017, Shahnaz fraudulently obtained a loan for $22,500 and dozens of credit cards used to purchase $62,000 in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies online. While she committed these financial offenses, Shahnaz viewed ISIS propaganda online, including websites and message boards with violent jihad-related material, and searched for information about traveling to Syria. She also looked at social media and messaging pages belonging to ISIS recruiters, facilitators, and financers. The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force intercepted Shahnaz at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, on July 31, 2017, as she attempted to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, which is a common destination for individuals looking to cross into Syria for the purpose of joining ISIS. Shahnaz also faces possible restitution, criminal forfeiture, and a fine when she is sentenced.
2 Iranian Hackers Accused of Deploying Ransomware Targeting Newark’s Computers
Two men from Iran suspected of running a computer hacking and extortion scheme that targeted computers in Newark (Essex County) and hundreds of other victims face federal charges, prosecutors said on November 28. Faramarz Shahi Savandi, 34, and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri, 27, are accused of deploying ransomware that they authored beginning in December 2015. Computers on Newark’s city system had been targeted on April 25, 2017. The city paid $30,000 in bitcoin to the hackers on recommendation from law enforcement to prevent further disruption, according to Mayor Ras Baraka. Other targets included hospitals, municipalities, and public institutions. More than $6 million was paid to the hackers, and the victims totaled $30 million in losses factoring in time when they were not able to access data. Savandi and Mansouri are still at large and are charged with conspiracy, intentionally damaging protected computers, and demanding ransom in relation to the damage.