(trendingpoliticsnews) – Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of Mateo Ventura, an 18-year-old from Massachusetts. He is being charged with providing financial support to the Islamic State terrorist organization. The case faces a major issue, however, as the only “terrorist” Ventura is accused of being in contact with is an undercover FBI agent who reached out to him when he was 16 years old.
Ventura was arrested for “knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources that he intended to go to a foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS),” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts released last Thursday.
According to a report from The Intercept, an undercover FBI agent befriended the teen online and solicited small donations in the form of gift cards. The agent also instructed the teen not to make anyone else aware of their relationship.
Ventura’s family has vehemently denied the allegations against their son and have accused the FBI of manipulating him. The teen’s father, Paul Ventura, told The Intercept that Mateo suffers from development issues and was forced to leave his school due to bullying from other students.
“He was born prematurely, he had brain development issues. I had the school do a neurosurgery evaluation on him and they said his brain was underdeveloped,” Ventura said. “He was suffering endless bullying at school with other kids taking food off his plate, tripping him in the hallway, humiliating him, laughing at him.”
Charging documents accuse the teen of sending small donations to the FBI agent over period of time. “Ventura allegedly stated that he wanted the proceeds to go to ISIS “for war on kuffar, ‘(disbelievers),’” the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts said in their statement announcing the charges against Ventura. “In total, it is alleged that between January and May 2023, Ventura donated $705 intended to support ISIS.”
Mateo repeatedly turned down offers from the undercover agent to travel overseas and physically join the fight for ISIS. By the time the investigation was winding down, the teen appeared ready to turn in the undercover agent – to the FBI.
The case is still in its early stages, though early reports have sparked criticism and comparisons to other counter terrorism operations in which undercover agents did most of the “heavy lifting,” such as planning violent acts and securing weapons.
In the lead-up to the 2020 election, several men were arrested in an alleged plot to capture and potentially kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. It was soon revealed that the case involved several undercover FBI agents and other undercover FBI personnel. Undercover operatives proposed the attack, planned it, then arrested perpetrators who agreed to the scheme.