Terrorists at Casinos

Hijackers' Tracks in Las Vegas
Gambling Strip Combed for Evidence of Several Terrorists

LAS VEGAS -- Additional FBI agents are being brought to this city to chase down hundreds of leads and track the movements of terrorists who repeatedly visited here in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks.  Mohamed Atta, a suspected ringleader of the terrorist attack that left more than 5,000 people dead, made at least two trips here.  In addition to Atta, authorities also believe that Marwan Al-Shehhi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Hani Hanjour and Ziad Samir Jarrah also visited the city. All five men were killed in the attacks in New York and Washington.
By William Booth   Washington Post Staff Writer  9/14/01

Terrorists had no apparent reason to visit Las Vegas ...
So why did they?
On June 28 at Boston’s Logan Airport, Mohamed Atta boarded a United Airlines flight and flew first class nonstop to San Francisco, where he bypassed the bohemian North Beach district and didn’t take the cruise to Alcatraz.  Instead, Atta took the first of two side trips to Las Vegas.
On Aug. 10, Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi used first-class tickets for a United flight from Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles International Airport, then on to Las Vegas.  Las Vegas FBI Special Agent in Charge Grant Ashley candidly admitted that the whole story of the terrorists’ Las Vegas connection may never be known.  Authorities on the hijackers’ sponsor, Osama bin Laden, note that counterfeiting has been one of the al-Qaida terrorist network's signatures.  Were the hijackers passing off funny money?  Spies and arms dealers have made this a second home for more than a generation.
11/4/01  Las Vegas Review-Journal  COLUMN: John L. Smith

SunCruz Casinos turns over documents in terrorist probe
TAMPA, Fla. - SunCruz Casinos has turned over photographs and other documents to FBI investigators after employees said they recognized some of the men suspected in the terrorist attacks as customers.
Michael Hlavsa, chairman of the gambling cruise company, said Wednesday two or three men linked to the Sept. 11 hijackings may have been customers on a ship that sailed from Madeira Beach on Florida's gulf coast.
9/26/01 By VICKIE CHACHERE Associated Press Writer and Florida Times-Union

Terror suspects spent $100,000 in casino scam
Buffalo duo likely tried to launder cash

HAMILTON — Two members of an alleged Al Qaeda cell arrested in Buffalo last week spent at least $100,000 (U.S.) at Casino Niagara in what Ontario officials suspect were money-laundering attempts.  Federal prosecutors in Buffalo, where the American-born suspects are in a bail hearing this week, have painted the men as wily members of an Al Qaeda "sleeper" cell, based in the suburb of Lackawanna.  American anti-terrorism officials allege that some of the men seem to have secret sources of funds, the type of money needed to carry out acts of Al Qaeda terrorism on U.S. soil.  "Terrorists will take full advantage of whatever means they can," said David Harris, an anti-terrorism consultant in Ottawa. "They know the art and science of laundering money. Casinos are just another avenue for that."
Thestar.com  Toronto star   9/20/02   By Joan Walters 

Treasury Department to require casinos to report
suspicious transactions
Casinos will have to file reports on suspicious financial transactions to the federal government as part of the Bush administration's effort to catch drug dealers, terrorists and others involved in money laundering.  The rule announced Wednesday by the Treasury Department takes effect in six months and would apply to casinos located in the United States with gross annual revenues of more than $1 million.  Identifying suspicious transactions is a difficult task for several reasons, including "the fast-paced casino environment, with lots of games going on and lots of customers."
Money laundering involves the movement of profits from drug or arms trafficking, political corruption, prostitution and other illegal activities through a series of accounts or businesses to disguise them as proceeds of legitimate business.  Treasury's General Counsel David Aufhauser said Wednesday's rules and proposals are aimed at snagging money launderers and terrorist financiers.
JEANNINE AVERSA, 9/18/02 (WASHINGTON (AP) customwire.ap.org/dynamic/fronts/ARCHIVE

Casinos targeted in hunt for illegal immigrants
Northern Nevada casinos,
with their large numbers of foreign-born workers, have been the targets of federal government searches for illegal immigrants.  “It continues to be a fairly big problem,” said Gregory White, an agent in the Reno office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
In 1994, immigration agents removed about 1,400 undocumented workers from 46 northern Nevada casinos. 

Las Vegas, Reno could be terrorism targets
Last week Las Vegas FBI chief Grant Ashley told reporters the FBI may never know what the hijackers were doing here.  A member of the Nevada’s Homeland Security Committee said Wednesday in Carson City that he felt Las Vegas and Reno would be good targets for any type of terrorist attack because of the cities’ 24-hour lifestyle.  "It makes them more vulnerable," said Richard Brenner, fire protection engineer of Las Vegas' Clark County Fire Department.  "We are both 24-hour cities. We really don't go to sleep."
Ray Hagar  RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL 12/12/2001

The House Financial Services Committee on Thursday passed the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act, a bill containing language designed to quash Internet gambling.  The bill states that "no person engaged in the business of betting or wagering may knowingly accept, in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling," such financial instruments as checks, credit cards or electronic fund transfers. Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, called the effort against Internet gambling critical in the battle against terrorism. "Internet gambling (poses) the greatest potential for money laundering that exists in the world," Leach said.  The bill is designed to crack down on money laundering efforts by terrorist organizations. 
10/12/02   By David Strow and Benjamin Grove  LAS VEGAS SUN

Another American law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that investigators also are probing the possibility that some of the individuals sneaked into the United States by way of the Akwesasne Mohawk Reserve, which straddles the borders of Ontario, Quebec, and New York State.  For years, the reserve has been a notorious smuggling route, serving as a conduit for illegal immigrants bound for the United States and for contraband goods, mainly cigarettes and alcohol, headed for Canada to avoid heavy US taxes. Indians with ties to biker gangs and organized crime typically serve as well-paid guides through the dense brush and across the waterways of the reserve.
By Colin Nickerson, Globe Staff, 1/3/2003   MONTREAL

Akwesasne Mohawk Casino www.mohawkcasino.com/

"A person could launder money at a land-based casino easier than online where you have a complete paper trail even for small amounts," said Wayne Townsend, a Yucca Valley man who writes Internet gambling software.
By Benjamin Spillman  The Desert Sun  10/12/02