On 5 August 2020 the United States District Court for the District of Columbia filed a criminal complaint for forfeiture in a civil action against defendant properties (in rem). These include a website and four Facebook accounts allegedly associated with Islamic State (IS) fundraising. Although racketeering and extortion are not new to IS, what is noteworthy about this case is its linkage with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Since the beginning of the pandemic, IS and extremist movements across multiple spectrums, have used COVID-19 to their advantage, whether to enhance narratives, goals, promote conspiracy theories, or wage attacks while countries and security forces deal with restrictions and burdens caused by the pandemic. In online environments IS and its supporters have used COVID-19 as a communication tool to promote themes and narratives and offer advice to supporters, while dehumanising their perceived enemies. However, the criminal complaint marks a new turn in IS’s exploitation of the pandemic, with elements of the group actively running a personal protective equipment (PPE) scam. As the U.S. Department of Justice displays, worldwide COVID-19 fraud has become a major issue.