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How the FBI Framed Mateo Ventura, a Kid With Disabilities

FBI-Matteo-Ventura
The case of Matteo Ventura begs the question of FBI entrapment schemes
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We’ve always been talking about how the CIA wanted to make Operation Northwoods happen, but do you know the FBI also has its own shady dealings? Usually, when we think of the FBI, we think they’re the better ones, the over-glorified cops who save the day and, protect the US sovereignty and liberty and hold up justice. But just how much better are they? Take, for example, the case of Mateo Ventura, the 18-year-old with developmental issues who was coaxed into making explosives.

In June 2023, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of a teenager in Massachusetts on allegations of providing financial support to the Islamic State group. News outlets were quick to cover the arrest of Mateo Ventura, an 18-year-old from the quiet town of Wakefield. The government’s narrative painted a picture of Ventura as an international terrorist financier and ISIS supporter being taken down on American soil. The Department of Justice’s press release heralded his arrest for “knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources that he intended to go to a foreign terrorist organization.”

How The FBI Framed Mateo Ventura with Gift Cards

The intricacies of this case reveal a disturbing reality. Despite initial portrayals, government documents indicate that Ventura never provided funding to any terrorist organization. According to my research so far, the sole “terrorist” he allegedly communicated with was an undercover FBI agent who, posing as a 16-year-old online, cultivated a relationship with Ventura. This agent coerced small cash donations in the form of gift cards from Ventura and instructed him to maintain secrecy about their interaction, even from his own family. The arrest has profoundly affected the Ventura family, prompting them to vehemently refute the accusations against their son, asserting that the FBI manipulated him. Paul Ventura, Mateo’s father, disclosed that Mateo grappled with developmental challenges since childhood and was compelled to withdraw from school due to relentless bullying from his peers.

Mateo Ventura’s father, Paul Ventura, recounted a troubling narrative of his son’s upbringing, detailing the challenges he faced due to developmental issues stemming from his premature birth. Ventura described how Mateo endured relentless bullying at school, including instances of food theft, hallway tripping, and public humiliation, inflicted upon him by his peers. Contrary to the sensationalized portrayal circulated by the media regarding terrorist financing in the United States, examination of the charging documents paints a markedly different picture. Ventura’s interactions with an undercover FBI agent involved the exchange of small amounts of cash via gift cards, typically in increments as low as $25. Moreover, when presented with opportunities to join the Islamic State, Ventura hesitated and ultimately declined, providing excuses to avoid participation, according to the FBI’s own account. As the investigation unfolded, Ventura’s reluctance to engage further culminated in his apparent readiness to expose his purported ISIS contact — an FBI agent posing undercover — to the authorities.

Wakefield teenager, Mateo Ventura, along with his father

Wakefield teenager, Mateo Ventura, along with his father

Ventura’s case remains veiled in uncertainty, its complexities yet to fully unravel as legal proceedings progress. The trajectory of discovery and trial may shed light on his interactions with the FBI and online activities. Indeed, the intersection of individuals with autism and other disabilities with the criminal justice system is not unprecedented. In 2022, the case of Brandon Fleury, a 22-year-old diagnosed with a form of autism, garnered attention when he received a 66-month prison sentence for engaging in insulting trolling of family members affected by the Nicolas Cruz shooting. While the severity of Fleury’s actions cannot be understated, questions linger regarding the efficacy of a lengthy prison term in addressing the underlying issues faced by individuals with developmental challenges.

The glaring absence of rehabilitative measures within correctional facilities further compounds these concerns. With little to no support for those behind bars, the prospect of meaningful rehabilitation for individuals like Matteo Ventura remains uncertain. As society grapples with the complex interplay between disability and the criminal justice system, the imperative to address systemic shortcomings and prioritize compassionate, effective interventions becomes increasingly urgent. However, examination of the government’s account of Ventura’s arrest suggests a narrative familiar in cases involving vulnerable individuals manipulated by undercover FBI agents into criminal activities they would not have pursued independently. This law enforcement strategy, criticized by national security analysts, has been scrutinized for potentially transforming law-abiding citizens into perceived terrorists through prolonged government intervention and encouragement. A 2014 Human Rights Watch report echoed these concerns, questioning the FBI’s reliance on informants in terrorism investigations.

FBI and Fake Terror Plots

For approximately two decades, the tactic employed by the FBI in terrorism prosecutions has been a cornerstone of their approach. While its prevalence has somewhat diminished in recent times, the Ventura case serves as a sobering reminder that authorities may still resort to fabricating terrorist narratives where none truly exist. Naz Ahmad, acting director of the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR) project at the City University of New York School of Law, underscores the ongoing utilization of informants and undercover agents in FBI investigations. Their role extends beyond passive information gathering to actively shaping and facilitating criminal activities. Ahmad emphasizes documented instances wherein the government provided individuals with the means to carry out plots, with informants and undercover agents acting as catalysts in propelling these schemes forward.

Take, for example, the case of the 2007 Fort Dix attack conspiracy. The 2007 Fort Dix attack plot is, in its core, a story of radicalization and conspiracy, involving a group of six individuals intent on orchestrating an assault against U.S. Military personnel stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Following their apprehension by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on May 8, 2007, the men faced prosecution in federal court in October 2008. Subsequently, on December 22, 2008, five members of the group were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for their planned assault on U.S. military personnel. Four of them received life sentences, while one was sentenced to 33 years in prison. The remaining member, perceived to have played a minor role in the plot, received a five-year prison sentence for weapons offenses.

Fort Dix Five in a photo

Fort Dix Five in a photo

People have since noted the FBI’s handling of the case have leveled accusations of entrapment, contending that the agency’s informants played a pivotal role in fabricating the conspiracy. These informants, both foreign nationals residing in the United States illegally with prior criminal records, purportedly befriended the individuals involved, receiving financial compensation and assistance with their legal residency status in return. Furthermore, critics point to various procedural shortcomings, including allegations of inadequate legal representation, judicial impartiality, and a lack of concrete evidence implicating the defendants in the alleged plot. Mahmoud Omar, an FBI informant and crucial witness in the case, later recanted his testimony, asserting the innocence of the accused individuals. His testimony, coupled with the broader scrutiny of the FBI’s tactics, has cast doubt on the integrity of the proceedings. As a result of this contentious case, the three Duka brothers, along with Shnewer and Abdullahu, have come to be known collectively as the Fort Dix Five, emblematic of the controversy and complexity surrounding their prosecution.

The probe into the “Fort Dix Five,” as it came to be known, exposed a troubling narrative of law enforcement and legal misconduct, laid bare in a comprehensive investigation and documentary by The Intercept in 2015. Their ordeal epitomized a broader pattern wherein fervent FBI agents and prosecutors, navigating the charged landscape of post-9/11 America, indiscriminately labeled individuals devoid of significant threat as adversaries of the state. The Duka brothers and others ensnared in similar cases faced severe repercussions, enduring lengthy prison terms or enduring irreparable damage to their lives following convictions on charges of material support for terrorism. These cases underscore the far-reaching consequences of overzealous prosecution and the erosion of civil liberties in the pursuit of national security objectives.

Rather than targeting hardened terrorists, the domestic front of the war on terror often pursued individuals who posed minimal actual threat to the United States. Arun Kundnani, an authority on counterterrorism and author of “The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror,” has extensively scrutinized the debunked radicalization theories underpinning numerous terrorism convictions. He advocates for a collective retrospective review process to reevaluate these cases, highlighting the lingering injustice faced by individuals ensnared in flawed prosecution theories. As Kundnani emphasizes, there remains a cohort of individuals languishing in prison or grappling with the enduring repercussions of truncated sentences, their lives irrevocably altered by unjust convictions. The call for a systematic reexamination of these cases underscores the urgent need to rectify past injustices and safeguard against future miscarriages of justice within the realm of counterterrorism enforcement.

Paul Ventura recounted a troubling encounter with armed FBI agents in 2021, who visited his home to deliver unsettling news about his son’s online activities. They informed him that Mateo had been browsing websites deemed inappropriate, and purportedly connected him with what they claimed was a counselor. Despite this initial intervention, Paul remained unaware of his son’s continued interactions with an undercover FBI agent online. Reflecting on the incident, Paul expressed frustration with the FBI’s handling of the situation. While they confiscated Mateo’s computer and admonished him for his online behavior, no further action was taken at the time. Paul, preoccupied with work and grappling with his son’s struggles with bullying at school, laments the lack of follow-up from law enforcement. In hindsight, Paul questions why the FBI didn’t take more decisive action or communicate more effectively with him about Mateo’s online activities. He believes that had he been made aware of the extent of Mateo’s interactions online, he would have intervened more decisively to address the situation.

The details of Mateo Ventura’s case, as outlined in the government’s criminal complaint, reveal the development of his relationship with the FBI. In August 2021, at the age of 16, Ventura initiated communication with an undercover FBI agent through online channels. During these exchanges, Ventura expressed his desire to undertake “hijrah,” or migration, to territories controlled by the Islamic State. At the time of these discussions, ISIS had faced significant defeats in its primary strongholds of Iraq and Syria. However, it remains unclear whether Ventura was fully aware of this development. According to the Department of Justice’s complaint, an undercover FBI agent posing as an ISIS member communicated with the 16-year-old, offering encouragement in broken English and explicitly instructing Ventura to maintain secrecy regarding their online conversations, including withholding information from friends and family. The criminal complaint elucidates the dialogue between Ventura and the individual identified as “OCE,” or the “FBI employee acting in an undercover capacity.”

Ventura initiated contact with the FBI agent again via an encrypted messaging platform shortly after reaching the age of 18 in January 2023. He reiterated his intention to journey to the Islamic State, engaging in discussions regarding the potential risks associated with participating in attacks or attending a training camp. Following instructions from the undercover FBI operative, Ventura sent a video of himself showcasing his recently grown beard, which garnered positive feedback. Additionally, he provided another $25 Google Play gift certificate, purportedly intended for jihad activities. However, Ventura encountered difficulties in booking flights due to a lack of access to a credit card. Eventually, on April 10 of the same year, Ventura successfully made a reservation for a flight to Egypt with Turkish Airlines. Instead of proceeding with his travel arrangements, Ventura contacted the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center, demanding a significant sum of money in exchange for providing information on future terrorist attacks. He asserted that he would neither acknowledge sending the message nor engage in further communication until the cash was delivered, as detailed in the criminal complaint.

Mateo Ventura's father, Paul Ventura, speaks to the media about how the FBI framed his son

Mateo Ventura’s father, Paul Ventura, speaks to the media about how the FBI framed his son

At this juncture in the investigation, Ventura not only exhibited hesitation about aligning himself with the group, but also displayed eagerness to divulge information about his purported ISIS contact to law enforcement. Over the following days, Ventura placed multiple calls to the FBI, expressing a desire to assist in counterterrorism efforts and offering to provide information about potential ISIS terrorist activities. He proposed to exchange this information for monetary compensation and legal immunity for himself. On April 20, Ventura received a phone call from the FBI, during which he was informed that the information he had provided was deemed “not specific” and therefore not actionable, as detailed in the affidavit. Meanwhile, while his attempts to disclose information about the FBI’s informant in exchange for substantial financial compensation seemed to stall, Ventura continued his online communication with the undercover operative. He apologized for missing his flight to Egypt and sought alternative means to join ISIS. On May 16, Ventura sent another Google Play gift card to the agent, this time with a value of $45.

These interactions persisted until Ventura’s arrest in early June, when he was charged with one count of “knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” This charge stemmed from the gift card donations Ventura had been sending to the FBI over the course of their online conversations. Ventura’s arrest was portrayed by news reports as thwarting a potential Islamic State funding operation in the U.S., echoing the Justice Department’s stance. However, the allegations against him do not indicate any direct connection with the terrorist group. After his arrest, Ventura’s father asserted outside the courthouse that his son is being unfairly targeted and is unequivocally loyal to America. Ventura could face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted of providing material support to a terrorist group. In recent years, arrests of ISIS operatives in the U.S. have become increasingly rare following the group’s defeat in Iraq and Syria. Criticisms persist regarding the use of entrapment and grooming tactics in terrorism cases, even during ISIS’s peak influence. Despite mounting scrutiny from the public and civil rights organizations, these tactics remain unchanged.

How the FBI Is Trying to Actively Frame US Citizens

David Williams faced numerous challenges in his life. At the age of 10, he relocated to Newburgh, a gritty and impoverished town nestled along the banks of the Hudson River, approximately an hour north of New York City. As a young African American boy with a father incarcerated, trouble seemed to lurk around every corner. Williams found himself making poor decisions, ultimately leading to a stint in jail for drug-related offenses. Upon his release in 2007, he endeavored to turn his life around. However, financial strain, compounded by his brother Lord’s urgent need for funds to cover a liver transplant, pushed him back into a precarious situation. In Newburgh, where poverty and a criminal record cast a shadow over opportunities, the pressure to make ends meet was relentless.

His aunt, Alicia McWilliams, candidly acknowledged the harsh realities of the streets that her nephew navigated. “Newburgh is a challenging environment,” she remarked. Therefore, it came as little surprise when, in May 2009, David Williams found himself arrested once again, facing a daunting 25-year prison sentence. However, his charges were not related to drugs or typical criminal activities. Instead, Williams and three other local men grappling with drug addiction, criminal histories, and mental health issues were convicted of a terrorist plot involving the targeting of Jewish synagogues and the attempted shooting down of military jets with missiles.

Even more astonishing was the revelation that the orchestration of the organization, funding, weaponry, and motivation behind this plot did not originate from genuine Islamic terrorists. Instead, it was orchestrated by the FBI, with an informant paid to assume the role of a terrorist mastermind seeking assistance in executing an attack. For McWilliams, the realization that her own government had coerced and compensated her beloved nephew into participating in a terrorist scheme, fabricating a false plot, and subsequently incarcerating him for it was utterly surreal. “I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone”. Attorneys representing the so-called Newburgh Four have initiated an appeal set to be heard early next year. Advocates view the case as a prime opportunity to shed light on the issue of FBI “entrapment” in terrorism-related cases. “We have a legal entrapment case that is as close as I have ever seen,” remarked Susanne Brody, legal counsel for another defendant from Newburgh, Onta Williams.

This sentiment is shared by some experts. “The target, motive, ideology, and plot were all instigated by the FBI,” stated Karen Greenberg, a law professor at Fordham University in New York, specializing in the study of new FBI tactics. However, the scope of this issue extends far beyond the confines of Newburgh. Critics argue that the FBI is conducting widespread sting operations across America, primarily targeting the Muslim community by enticing individuals into fabricated terrorism plots. FBI offices dispatch informants to infiltrate Muslim communities, frequent mosques and community centers, and discuss radical Islam in an attempt to identify potential individuals sympathetic to such ideologies. Alternatively, they respond to outlandish tip-offs, such as one case involving a man claiming to have spotted terror leader Ayman al-Zawahiri residing in northern California in the late 1990s.

The case of the Liberty City Seven serves as another prime example. In 2006, the case unfolded with the involvement of an informant named Elie Assaad, whose questionable history included a prior arrest (although no charges were filed) for assaulting his pregnant wife. Assaad, along with another informant, was tasked with infiltrating a group of individuals in Liberty City, a financially disadvantaged, predominantly African American suburb of Miami. The targets of their operation were followers of a group known as The Seas of David, led by former Guardian Angel Narseal Batiste. Interestingly, the group’s religious practices diverged from mainstream Islam, focusing instead on Bible study and the wearing of the Star of David. Despite this, Assaad assumed the role of an Al-Qaida operative and successfully coerced members of the group into pledging allegiance. Transcripts of the purported “oath-taking” ceremony depict a scene that borders on the absurd. Batiste repeatedly questions the concept, seemingly coerced into compliance. In essence, defense attorneys argued that these men were impoverished and misled members of an obscure religious cult, rather than genuine threats.

The Liberty Seven, the men charged with a plot

The Liberty Seven, the men charged with a plot

Despite the grandiose targets the group purportedly considered attacking, such as the Sears Tower in Chicago, Hollywood movie studios, and the Empire State Building, even the most fervent prosecutors conceded that any potential plots were merely “aspirational” in nature, given the group’s lack of means to execute them. Nevertheless, they were charged with offenses including seeking to wage war against America, conspiring to destroy buildings, and supporting terrorism. Five members received lengthy prison sentences. Assaad, who was recently arrested in Texas for attempting to run over a policeman, was compensated with $85,000 for his involvement.

Later, the incarcerated Liberty City men pursued an appeal, and a judgment was rendered last week. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, and are officially branded as Islamic terrorists intent on undermining America. However, their supporters maintain a different perspective. “Our country is not made safer by the prosecution of these seven impoverished young men from Liberty City,” asserted Batiste’s attorney, Ana Jhones. “This prosecution incurred significant financial costs for our government and inflicted profound emotional turmoil on the defendants and their families. I firmly believe that our nation is less secure as a result of the government’s actions in this case.”

The actions of the government’s operatives serve as a reminder of how easily acquired power can lead to corruption and abuse. Contrary to their purported role of being tough on crime, FBI agents have garnered notoriety for their own criminal behavior. Whether it’s infiltrating places of worship like churches, synagogues, and mosques with undercover agents, fabricating emergency letters to unlawfully obtain Americans’ phone records, employing intimidation tactics to suppress dissent against the government, or coaxing vulnerable individuals into plotting acts of terrorism only to entrap them, the overarching perception of the nation’s clandestine law enforcement agency resembles that of a well-dressed bully, flexing its authority and executing the bidding of those in power.

This begs the question, obviously, of how safe you are online at the end of the day. How do you know that the person you’re talking to on the other end is who you think they are? If this is what the FBI is capable of doing to American citizens on US soil, how far would the day be down on the road that you would be prosecuted like it is Communist China or Nazi Germany? Only time will tell.

If we interested you with this case, you will find the case of The Human Latch, the latest creepypasta to grace the internet, inspiring. Then, feel free to read more about the Bizarre String of Events that ran Parallel to the Las Vegas Massacre.

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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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