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FBI Investigating Expensive Stevenson Crash

By Matt Wood in News on Feb 23, 2006 6:09PM

Seven-vehicle accidents that kill two people and shut down a freeway for six hours usually make big headlines. But when one of the victims was traveling in a car with $2 million in cash and checks and a bunch of unused credit cards and IDs, well that's when the feds get involved.

chicagoist_2006_02_crash.jpegThe crash happened yesterday at about 1 PM on the southbound lanes of the Stevenson Expressway near the Harlem Avenue exit. Apparently a semi was traveling too fast and rear-ended a car, setting off a chain reaction. When the pile up was over, a 76-year old woman and a 45-year old man were dead.

Tragic news, but things got interesting when rescuers found a whole lotta fetti in the Kia Sportage in which the male victim, Lafi Nofal, was riding. Sources differ on the find. The Tribune says it was a $2 million check, credit cards and other "financial instruments"; The Sun-Times hints that the check was for a mere $1 million, plus cash and IDs; and CBS 2 also says the check was for $1 mil, but with more checks, cash, and credit cards. Score one for media accuracy--regardless, that's a lot of money.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating the matter, but they caution reading too much into the "terrorism" part of that. They just happen to have a lot of financial crimes specialists on staff, and say that the loot will likely lead to a counterfeiting or money-laundering operation. But yes, someone is bound to notice that the victim in question, Nofal, has a Middle Eastern-sounding name, as does his surviving driver, Amjad Husein. So cynically we wonder if the findings set off some kind of automatic racial profile alarm at the FBI. We know the FBI investigates all kinds of financial crimes (though we also thought that was the Secret Service's area too). Maybe the dollar amount also triggered some kind of alert, but would the Joint Terrorism Task force be sniffing around if the other victim, 76-year old Dorothy Walsh, had been carrying that much money? Or is our tinfoil hat just duct-taped on too tightly?

Image via CBS 2 Chicago