Police in Chechnya have detained three Muslim women for allegedly conning ISIS recruiters into sending them thousands of dollars in cash and then bailing on their trips to Syria and Iraq.
According to reports in Russia, the trio of young women had been posing as wannabe jihadi brides in an effort to extort cash from the terrorists.
The three female con-artists are reportedly now being held by Chechen authorities in relation to charges of suspected fraud.
Ironically, the three Chechen swindlers used the Islamic State’s public relations tool of choice, social media, to carry out their deception.
Life News, a Russian tabloid, has reported that the scam originated on social networking platforms, where the women would engage with ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
Feigning interest in travelling to the self-declared Caliphate, the three women are then alleged to have claimed that they didn’t have enough money to travel to the Middle East. Subsequently, the ISIS recruiters then promised to cover the women’s travel expenses, wiring cash to the women via an anonymous electronic transfer.
After receiving the cash, the women would simply delete all social media traces of themselves used to facilitate the con, before moving on to their next target.
The three managed to earn more than US$3,300 from the terrorists before they were rumbled by the Chechen police department, according to the Moscow-based news organization Moskovsky Komsomolets.
“I’ve never heard of a precedent for anything like this case. Probably because no one has gone far enough in that direction,” Officer Valery Zolotaryov told Moskovsky Komsomolets.
“I wouldn’t advise anyone to enter into correspondence with dangerous criminals in any case, and especially not to make some easy money,” he added.
One of the women involved, identified as Mary, even told Life News that she had been approached by an ISIS fighter online.
“He began to lure me, saying: ‘Do you want to come to Syria, [it is] very good.’ I told him that I had no money,” she said. Life News has reported that the man then wired her 10,000 rubles (US$168).
At one stage however, Mary actually considered following through with the trip, according to Life News. But the negative stories coming back from other Chechen women who had left - and their descriptions of the barbaric ways in which women are treated by the terrorist network - forced her to reconsider.
“Many people I know did go, but I know no one for whom it turned out well,” she said.
If convicted the women each face up to six years in prison.
Women recruits are drawn to ISIS for a lot of the same reasons young men are pouring into the group’s rank and file, experts have concluded.
“What was eye-opening to me in my research is that the women were every bit as motivated as the men,” said the Brookings Institution’s William McCants, author of the book The ISIS Apocalypse, in an interview with Fortune.
"To be the wife of a martyr brings you great status in that community, and it brings you a pension [...] You can become powerful as a spouse; there is a long history of that [in Islam]."