CASH OUT

Accused of Sending Social Security Checks to ISIS

Two Bosnian immigrants were so broke that they depended on disability benefits to stay afloat through foreclosure. Yet feds say they sent a small fortune to ISIS.

02.10.15 10:55 AM ET

ROCKFORD, Illinois—The home at 3620 Grant Ave. is the only one on the small cul de sac that has a driveway still covered in snow. There is no sign that anyone has been there since at least last weekend, when the Chicago area was blinded by a blizzard. A neighbor said she hasn’t seen a soul at the home in months. She didn’t want to give her name, especially not after hearing who reportedly lived in the blond brick ranch house just a few doors down from her own: alleged ISIS sympathizers.

“My husband is going to be shocked to hear this,” she said.

The rumors in the neighborhood about Fadil and Jasminka Ramic were downright benign compared to the news that came Saturday: Jasminka, a Bosnian immigrant like her husband, Fadil, was indicted Friday in federal court for allegedly helping to funnel money to ISIS. Jasminka’s whereabouts or whether she’d obtained legal counsel are not known. But Danya Shakfeh, a suburban Chicago lawyer who represented the couple in a 2011 case against their home-mortgage lender, said she hadn’t heard of Jasminka’s indictment, and hadn’t been approached for representation.  

“You mean, the people on the news?” the neighbor said of Jasminka and the five others named by federal authorities. “That’s them?”

In the indictment, unsealed Friday, Jasminka is not mentioned nearly as often as a St. Louis couple who investigators believed were the ringleaders of a network that sent money and supplies to fighters in Iraq and Syria. Jasminka, prosecutors say, was responsible for sending a total of $700 to a fellow Bosnian immigrant in St. Louis, who then passed the money on to an intermediary in Turkey.

According to neighbors who spoke with The Daily Beast, for the past few months Fadil and Jasminka have apparently not been at the house, fueling speculation that it had been foreclosed. Court records in Winnebago County indicate that the process has begun with CitiMortgage Inc. filing for foreclosure against the couple in June 2014. But the home is just part of the Ramics’ serious money problems, according to a 2011 bankruptcy filing.

Despite what prosecutors contend was Jasminka’s apparent skill at raising funds for ISIS, the couple was thousands of dollars behind in payments on their home, according to court documents from a a 2011 case between the couple and CitiMortgage. Shakfeh, their attorney in that case, said that a settlement had been reached between the couple and the bank but declined to give specifics.

Throughout the couple’s financial turmoil and Jasminka’s alleged shift toward conspiratorial criminality, the 42-year-old woman continued to get her monthly $579 Social Security disability check, which was listed as her sole source of income on the couple’s 2011 Chapter 7 paperwork. Fadil, a 12-year employee of a local water company at the time of the bankruptcy filing, listed a little more than $42,000 as his annual income. But that only tells part of the story.

When the couple filed for bankruptcy, Fadil had just $200 in his checking account, and was bringing in just $365 more than his monthly expenses. Money was incredibly tight in the Ramic household, which is why the $700 Jasminka allegedly sent through contacts in St. Louis to extremists a half a world away could have been better spent on the couple’s bills.

That $700 would be a small amount for many, if authorities are correct in proving Jasminka’s supposed involvement. But for Jasminka and Fadil, it was a fortune.

In September 2011, they sued their bank, who they claimed had mishandled a loan modification for their home. After monthly payments dropped below $600 as a result of the reworked mortgage, they rose to more than $1,000, according to the notice for removal filing that Shakfeh handled for the couple.

“Plaintiffs assert they were put into a position where they were forced” to accept a 4.5 percent interest rate on their home loan, Shakfeh wrote in the filing. This increase had occurred despite the bank’s “purported representations that their modified loan would be a 2% interest rate.”

As a result of the higher monthly payments, the Ramics apparently fell behind, racking up just over $10,000 in missed payments that CitiMortgage sued for. The couple fought back, hiring Shakfeh and claiming they’d been misled by the bank. The notice of removal filing sought to reverse CitiMortgage’s claim, essentially nixing the $10,000 owed. Whatever settlement was reached apparently wasn’t enough, because CitiMortgage filed for foreclosure again in June 2014, according to a filing by the bank in Winnebago County.

The couple bought their home in 2003, according to court documents, for upwards of $100,000. In their bankruptcy filing, the Ramics list their real property assets—including their home—at $81,921. When the real-estate market bottomed out in 2008, the value of the Ramics home went with it.

Whatever their affiliation with ISIS or their Bosnian origins, in this aspect they were average Americans.

If it weren’t bad enough that the United States was helping to pay for Jasminka’s existence while she allegedly trolled Facebook for those willing to send money and supplies to radical Islamic fighters in Syria and Iraq, there’s this from the indictment unsealed Friday:

Jasminka and others “facilitated the conspiracy,” according to the Department of Justice, “by contributing their personal money” to the terrorists. If the charges prove true, in a very small way, through a one-story brick bungalow on a suburban street, a network of online supporters of extremism, and Jasminka Ramic’s Social Security checks, the United States funded its own enemies.

It doesn’t appear that Jasminka and the others named in Friday’s indictment were willing to commit blood to the cause of violent religious zealotry. But the small bit of treasure that Jasminka allegedly shelled out might have been better served going toward her and Fadil’s bills. A paycheck-to-paycheck existence doesn’t exactly leave room for wartime philanthropy.