FBI: 9/11 hijackers opened bank accounts with fake data
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The September 11 hijackers were able to open several U.S. bank accounts using illegitimate Social Security numbers, FBI officials said Wednesday.
Officials said the hijackers appeared to have relied most heavily upon SunTrust Banks for the movement of funds through accounts opened in Florida.
Investigators have traced the transfer of a total of $325,000 through SunTrust accounts held by the hijackers in the year leading up to the attacks. The Atlanta, Georgia-based SunTrust is cooperating with FBI investigators looking into the accounts.
Officials said the false Social Security numbers used to open the accounts appeared to have been randomly selected and were not legitimate or stolen Social Security numbers.
"This shows how the hijackers worked the system. They knew where the vulnerabilities were and exploited them to their advantage," an FBI official said.
A spokesman for SunTrust said the accounts were opened properly.
"Any suggestion that bogus Social Security numbers were provided to SunTrust and not checked is inaccurate," the spokesman said. "They did have proper documentation," he said, and all of the documentation checked out.
A large portion of the money that moved through the accounts has been traced to the United Arab Emirates, according to investigators, who remain on the money trail.
Investigators also believe the movement of money through the accounts is further evidence of cooperation between some of the hijackers before the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
An FBI official confirmed that one of the first signs of a large transfer of funds dates to 2000, when $110,000 was deposited in an account traced to Mohammed Atta, the alleged ringleader of the attacks, and Marwan al-Shehhi, another of the alleged hijackers.
While investigators have traced more than $325,000 in funds so far, they said they believe the hijackers had access to at least $500,000 before the attacks were carried out.
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