Tuesday, February 20, 2024

FBI Allegedly Targeted 15-Year-Old Catholic Boy in Online Chatrooms

'He was being drawn deeper and deeper into these chat groups and goaded into doing things like take pictures of himself in public wearing ski masks and to print out memes and leave them on picnic tables...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) A GiveSendGo has been established to raise money for a Catholic family whose 15-year-old son was allegedly targeted in an online FBI counterterrorism sting operation—which would mark at least the fourth teenager this year to be arrested after being targeted by the feds.

The GiveSendGo page is under the name of Connecticut man Jeremiah Rufini, and multiple high-profile Twitter accounts have claimed to verify its veracity. Rufini didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the GiveSendGo page, Rufini’s father contracted cancer, which led to his son being unsupervised on his cell phone for long periods of time.

“He spent a lot of time alone with nothing to do but wait and think and the cell phone became a welcome distraction. His interests in history and theology led him down a rabbit hole where he was recruited into group chats targeting teenage traditionalist Catholics with extreme political content,” Rufini said of his son.

“We later learned that these chats were being closely monitored, and possibly operated by, FBI agents as part of an effort to investigate Traditional Catholics that was downstream of a broader domestic investigation spurred by the events of January 6th,” he said, referencing the bureau launching an operation earlier this year against “Radical traditional Catholics.”

Rufini said his son continued to do his schoolwork and help around the house, and so the family had no idea he was delving into extremist corners of the internet. The details of the son’s internet activities are highly disturbing, suggesting that online undercover feds were trying to groom him for a potential act of terrorism.

“Unbeknownst to us, he was being drawn deeper and deeper into these chat groups and goaded into doing things like take pictures of himself in public wearing ski masks and to print out memes and leave them on picnic tables,” Rufini said.

“They would ask him if he had access to guns (he would go target shooting under the supervision of my brother, who lived in an in-law apartment at our home and owned firearms) and encourage him to sneak photographs of the guns and post them.”

According to Rufini, his family’s legal troubles began early this year—ironically, after the son deleted his chat apps and stopped interacting with the feds. Rufini said this caused the FBI to panic and assume that the 15-year old must have connected to a terror cell in real life and “gone dark” ahead of some potential violent act.

On a Sunday evening, Rufini said the FBI raided his home, handcuffing his family and locking them in a van while agents scoured the house.

They found no evidence of terrorism, but still confiscated Rufini’s brother’s firearms and institutionalized the 15-year old on mental health grounds.

“It soon became clear that there was no grand conspiracy or imminent danger and the FBI lost interest, but we have been mired in the aftermath ever since … The state brought criminal charges against my son that were eventually disposed of but required a legal battle that lasted months,” Rufini said.

“When his charges were disposed of, my brother and I were charged for allowing my son to target shoot based on the assumption that we must have somehow known that he was involved in political extremism online. It seems unlikely to amount to much but has cost us over $20,000 we don’t have so far.”

Now, Rufini says he risks losing his home, which is why he’s resorted to raising money online.

Supporters have come out in droves for the Rufini family. As of the publication of this article, he raised $20,435 out of the $22,000 he originally sought.

The Rufini boy is at least the fourth teenager arrested this year after being targeted by the FBI.

In June, for instance, the FBI announced that it arrested 18-year-old Mateo Ventura for intending to support ISIS. However, Ventura’s father, accused the FBI of entrapping his son.

The next month, the FBI arrested 18-year-old Davin Meyer as he was about to board an airplane, ostensibly to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS.

Like the Ventura case, Meyer’s mother has accused the FBI of entrapment.

Then, in August the FBI announced the arrest of a 17-year-old boy for supposedly plotting to carry out an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack on American soil.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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