By Laura French
WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice reports that ISIS ran a scam selling fake PPE to fund terrorist activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A scam website called FaceMaskCenter.com and four affiliated Facebook pages were created by ISIS facilitator Murat Cakar to sell N95 masks and other personal protective equipment the sellers falsely claimed was FDA-approved, according to a DOJ news release. The sellers also claimed to have a "near unlimited supply" of N95 respirators despite a worldwide shortage at the time of the scheme.
At least one U.S. customer, who was seeking to buy PPE for fire departments, hospitals and nursing homes, contacted the site and was told by a seller that he could "easily provide" up to 100,000 N95 masks to the customer, according to DOJ records.
In addition to N95 masks, the site also claimed to sell hospital-grade face masks, washable face masks, gloves and coverall suits.
U.S. authorities seized the website and Facebook pages, averting "the further victimization of those seeking COVID-19 protective gear, and disrupting the continued funding of ISIS."
The website and Facebook page take-downs were part of an operation in which the DOJ disrupted several terrorist-affiliated cyber operations including the ISIS scam and cryptocurrency fundraising campaigns by al-Qaeda and Hamas, constituting the largest ever seizure of terrorist organizations' cryptocurrency accounts, according to the DOJ.