I may move my business elsewhere after this.
WASHINGTON (July 10) - The Sept. 11 hijackers opened 35 bank accounts in the United States without legitimate Social Security numbers or with fake numbers that were never checked by bank officials, The New York Times reported in Wednesday editions.
The banks involved approved several applications in which the hijackers fabricated Social Security numbers, the newspaper said, citing Dennis Lormel, the head of the FBI unit investigating the financing of the Sept. 11 plot.
With no scrutiny from the financial institutions or government regulators, the hijackers were able to move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Middle East into the United States through a maze of bank accounts beginning more than a year before the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, according to the newspaper.
''That is one of the lessons learned from Sept. 11,'' Lormel said, noting that banks are now more diligent in checking on and reporting falsified applications.
Lormel told the paper the hijackers relied most heavily on 14 accounts at SunTrust Banks, moving $325,000 through accounts opened in Florida and taken out in the names of many of the hijackers.
A spokesman for Atlanta-based SunTrust said it was possible for foreigners without Social Security numbers to open bank accounts in the United States, but he could not provide details of what forms of identification the hijackers used to open the SunTrust accounts.
While the FBI has found that $325,000 flowed through the 14 SunTrust accounts before the Sept. 11 attacks, investigators believe that the hijackers had access to at least $500,000, the newspaper said.
Lormel, the FBI official, was quoted as saying that One of the first signs of a large infusion of cash coming into the United States for use by the hijackers appears in bank records dating from 2000. He said the records show that $100,000 was deposited in bank accounts controlled by some of the hijackers' leaders, including Mohammed Atta.
Lormel told the newspaper the FBI has traced that money back to the United Arab Emirates and believes that it was sent to the hijackers by Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi, who is accused of helping to manage the finances of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
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