Category: customs cash seizure

Bulk cash hidden in the vehicle panels seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection

CBP Seizes Money Going into Mexico

20 stacks of new U.S. currency seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection for smuggling and failure to report cash to customs
CBP in Lukeville Arizona seized $38,000 of concealed currency heading into Mexico.

Here’s a quick story about a money seizure that happened when someone was going into Mexico earlier this week.CBP seized almost $40k in cash that was hidden in the interior panel of a van in Lukeville, Arizona. The driver was a 31 year old Mexican man. Here’s the brief story:

TUCSON, Ariz. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conducting outbound inspections at Arizona’s Port of Lukeville arrested a 31-year-old Mexican man Saturday after finding $38,000 of unreported U.S. currency concealed in a quarter panel of his Ford van.

Officers seized the money and vehicle, and turned the driver over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Every once in a while a seizure like this is not connected to the drug trade. I’ve represented people who’ve had cash seized crossing the border with Mexico who hid it in the vehicle just to keep it safe. In a case like this, even if the money came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use the person involved is still responsible for a bulk cash smuggling violation. The consequences of that include forfeiture (permanent loss) of all the money, fines, and jail time. The best case scenario would be no criminal charges, and a return of most of the money.

Have you had money seized going into Mexico?

If you had money seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection going into Mexico you can learn more about the process from our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

$150,000 in bulk cash wrapped in bundles pictured on the on the roof of the vehicle from which the money was seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection

CBP Seized $150,000k in Smuggled Cash in El Paso

Way down in Texas, U.S. Customs & Border Protection seized nearly $150,000 in cash that was hidden in a backpack and a purse, when a two adults and two children were attempting to leave the country.

The seizure was made shortly after 9 a.m. when a 2000 Ford Focus with two adults and two children arrived at the outbound lanes at the Ysleta port of entry. CBP officers were conducting a southbound operation at the time and selected the vehicle for an examination. During the inspection CBP officers located bundles of U.S. currency concealed in a child’s back pack. Additional bundles of currency were located in the purse of the female adult passenger.CBP officers took custody of the driver, a 31-year-old male citizen of Mexico. They also took custody of the passenger, a 27-year-old U.S. citizen female. The subjects, vehicle and currency were turned over to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for prosecution.

The story also re-hashes, in a simple way, the law governing currency reporting requirements into or out of the United States:

“There is absolutely no limit to the amount of currency a traveler can bring into or take out of the United States,” said CBP El Paso Port Director Beverly Good. “The only requirement is travelers must report aggregate amounts that reach or exceed $10,000 to CBP. Failure to do so can result in criminal or civil penalties.”

U.S. law requires international travelers to properly report currency in their possession whether traveling into or departing from the United States.

Again, we have the mistatement of the law that there is a requirement to report “amounts that reach or exceed $10,000” when actually it only must exceed $10,000. But it is not clear if reporting the money in this border crossing scenario could have avoided the seizure of the cash, because it seems as though there was an independent basis for seizure of the money besides the bulk cash smuggling and failure to report; i.e., the money may have a illegal source or an illegal intended use.

If CBP seized your cash you need a lawyer. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact our customs lawyer for a free cash seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

U.S. Money Seized by Customs (CBP) Stacked on a Table with Envelopes

CBP Seizes Money for Currency Reporting Violations at Dulles & BWI Airports

CBP seizes more than $32,000 for currency reporting violations at Dulles and BWI airport last week. The news release reveal the travelers were a U.S. citizen and a Nigerian citizen, and were involved in two separate currency reporting incidents.

Before getting into the details, the news release explains:

“Federal currency reporting requirements are simple.  International travelers can carry as much currency as they wish into and out of the United States, but they must report all U.S. and foreign monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or greater on a U.S. Treasury Department financial form.  None of the currency is taxed.”

All true, except the reporting requirement applies to “more than $10,000” not “$10,000 or greater.” The story gives some good details on each of the seizures cases:

On Friday, CBP officers seized $13,821 from a Nigerian citizen at BWI.  He reported to CBP officers that he possessed $9,000.  During a secondary examination, CBP officers discovered British pounds concealed inside a carry-on bag.  The traveler then tossed a wad of rolled up currency on the examining table.  The currency, which consisted of dollars, pounds and Euros equaled $13,821.  CBP officers seized the currency and returned $500 to the traveler for humanitarian purposes.

“The traveler then tossed a wad of rolled up currency on the examining table” after reporting he had $9,000. The wad totaled $13,821. If this traveler had read our article about a case in Miami, he would have known that throwing money at CBP is not the same as reporting it.

The other incident reveals how unhelpful CBP can be at times.

On Thursday, CBP officers seized $18,578 from a U.S. citizen who arrived to Dulles on a flight from Dubai. She initially reported that she possessed $10,000. CBP officers found additional currency and checks during a secondary examination. CBP officers released $322 and two checks totaling $56 for humanitarian purposes.

$322 in humanitarian relief is pretty good. But $56 in two checks? I’ve had clients left with nothing after a seizure. Not even enough change to pay for a baggage cart. I can imagine how grateful this person was to receive two checks that totaled $56. The real reason they returned the checks was because they weren’t worth much, and CBP did not want to go through the trouble of depositing them and including them as part of the seizure

If you had cash seized for a currency reporting violation, make use of our free customs money seizure legal guide or contact us for a free currency reporting violation consultation!

A overhead shot $43,000 mostly in $20 bills that was seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection protection heading outbound to Mexico.

CBP Seized Hidden Cash from US Citizen in Texas

The CBP news release feed has been full of news about various enforcement actions on the immigration side of its mission, but with fewer news releases about currency reporting enforcement. Of course, there was the story about the smuggling of horse meat from Mongolia a few days ago.

There has not been much news about currency seizures, although we have noticed no downturn in cash seizure activity on the part of CBP…. but then CBP released this story out of Presidio, Texas, which is your run-of-the-mill bulk cash smuggling seizure that occurs at our border with Mexico.

PRESIDIO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Presidio port of entry seized $43,514 Tuesday afternoon. The money was discovered hidden in the center console and air manifold of a pick-up truck.

CBP officers were conducting a southbound inspection operation at the Presidio crossing when at approximately 5:25 p.m. a 2010 Ford F-150 pick-up driven by a 27-year-old U.S. citizen from Andrews, Texas, approached the checkpoint. The driver and vehicle were selected for an intensive inspection. During inspection of the vehicle the officers noticed anomalies in the appearance of the vehicle. Inspection of the center console revealed currency bundles wrapped in plastic bags hidden within. Further inspection of the vehicle led to more bundles hidden in the air filter housing and side dashboard panel. A total of nine bundles were removed from the vehicle.

CBP officers seized the money and vehicle and turned the driver to ICE HSI special agents in connection with the failed smuggling attempt. He was arrested and federal prosecution accepted.

“CBP officers are working hard to stop the illegal movement of guns, ammunition and unreported currency,” said Michael Neipert, CBP Presidio port director “Travelers who do not follow federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of losing their currency and may potentially face criminal charges.”

I am impressed that this was called what it was: a bulk cash smuggling seizure. As I’ve pointed out in the past, CBP often calls these failures to report cash; technically true, but not the most accurate name them.

$211k Cash Seized by CBP laid out on a table in stacks

$211k Cash Seized by Nogales CBP

CBP has been busy seizing cash across the country, and that is the reason my customs law blogging activity has slowed down in recent weeks. For the many readers of this blog who like these posts, I apologize. I’ll be trying to return to more frequent blogging in the next week or so.

It seems CBP has also been too busy to make many news releases about the seizure activity, too. But, today, we have word of a pretty huge seizure of $211,000 in cash being seized from a Mexican national while leaving the United States.

From the story below, it was more than just a seizure for a failure to report — but also for bulk cash smuggling. Here is the story, with scant details, but with a picture:

Customs and Border Protection officers at the Mariposa crossing in Nogales, Arizona, arrested a Mexican national Friday for attempting to transport almost $211,000 in unreported U.S. currency.

Officers conducting routine outbound inspections referred a 45-year-old man from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, for an inspection of his Chevrolet truck and found the currency in the vehicle’s dashboard.

Officers seized the vehicle and currency, and turned the subject over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

 

Money hidden in a traveler's bag that was not reported is photographed by CBP after seizure.

CBP Seizes $86,000 Smuggled in Houston

CBP announced the seizure of around $86,000 in cash from a man in Houston. The seizure took place on December 7, and, sounds like a very unfortunate incident for the man whose cash was seized. In this case, he is a Peruvian national and it sounds like he was only in the United States for a layover on his trip from Japan.

While at the Bush Intercontinental Airport, he went through Customs (presumably to do some more duty-free shopping) when he was taken for a secondary inspection to pay taxes on some cigarettes. For whatever reason, CBP supposedly explained the currency reporting requirement to him and he declared only $4,000.

Apparently, he had keys to some other luggage on his person. CBP located the luggage that those keys belonged to and inspected it, and lo and behold, discovered $86,000 hidden within 8 packages of photo paper. A picture of that concealment is included. Here’s the story:

HOUSTON— U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) seized over $86,000 from a traveler en route to Peru.

A Peruvian national, arriving from Japan, was referred to secondary for duty collection on cigarettes.  CBP officers explained the currency reporting requirements and the traveler declared $4,000, Dec. 7.

A baggage exam revealed keys to additional luggage, which the traveler claimed were in Peru.  The luggage was located and inspected, at which time CBP officers discovered $100 bills lined within eight packages of photo paper totaling $80,000. An envelope containing over $2,400 was also discovered.  In total, CBP seized more than $86,000.

“Travelers have no limit to the amount of currency they can bring into or take out of the U.S.; however, they are required by U.S. law to report if they are carrying $10,000 or more,” said Port Director Charles Perez.  “When travelers refuse to comply with federal reporting requirements, they face the risk of having the currency seized and possible civil and or criminal penalties assessed.”

Now, the link provided by CBP is to their own Q&A about currency reporting requirements. Frankly, the advice given their is more or less accurate, except that the law requires a report of more than $10,000, not $10,000 or more. It’s a difference of a penny but that’s the law, so CBP gets it partially wrong.

No word on whether or not this traveler was arrested, but likely they would have mentioned that fact if it was the case with this bulk cash smuggling seizure — money concealed with the apparent intention to not file the currency report. Did this traveler have that intent? Hmm, a tough call — a great argument could be made that he did not!

U.S. Customs & Border Protection Officer's uniform, featuring the seal of the agency.

CBP Seizes $38k Bulk Cash in Texas

I’ve not had much time for blogging about customs law, as CBP enforcement seems to have increased lately. But, I did see this story come up about a seizure of money in…. suprise: Texas! Not Dulles this time.

The money seizure occurred at the Del Rio International Bridge. Just three days ago, Customs officers stopped and searched a Mexican woman driving her vehicles out of the United States. During the course of the inspection, CBP found that she had “several bundles of cash in her possession” that totaled $37,901.

Although the story does not explain how, or if, the money was hidden, it does say that she will be prosecuted for bulk cash smuggling. It’s odd that, most of the time these seizure stories form CBP in Texas explain how they money was hidden but only calls those violations a failure to report; in this case, it is not explained how the money was hidden, but is called bulk cash smuggling. It’s becoming my pet peeve.

On to the story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Del Rio International Bridge recently seized more than $30,000 in U.S. currency from a woman leaving the United States bound for Mexico.

On Dec. 19, CBP officers, conducting outbound inspections at the Del Rio Port of Entry, encountered a 2010 SUV departing the United States for Mexico. During inspection, officers discovered the woman driving the SUV had several bundles of cash in her possession. Officers seized $37,901 in undeclared U.S. currency.The driver, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Mexico, was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations for federal prosecution for bulk cash smuggling – 31 USC § 5332.

“Seizing undeclared currency at ports of entry serves to deprive criminal organizations of their profits,” said Port Director Alberto D. Perez, Del Rio Port of Entry. “Large amounts of currency may be imported and exported with the proper documentation.

“Failure to report international transit of $10,000 or more could mean forfeiture of funds and criminal sanctions.”

An example of cash report for customs.

CBP Seizes $13K in Unreported Currency at Washington Dulles International Airport

A traveler bound for Ethiopa had $13,000 seized from him by U.S. Customs & Border Protection at Dulles airport a few weeks back. This story is part of the (seemingly) un-ending trend of currency seizures coming from Dulles airport lately.

The facts are largely the same as most of the other stories. A U.S. citizen attempts to leave the United States without first making the required currency report to Customs. The man probably thought he would not have to report it because — after all, you do not pass through Customs when leaving the country, only when arriving. But the currency reporting requirement applies equally to those entering the country and to those leaving the country.

During an outbound inspection, the man declared, both verbally and in writing, to CBP officers that he possessed $5,000; however, CBP officers discovered a total of $13,294 on his person and in his luggage.  The officers seized the $13,294, returning the equivalent of $424 in foreign and U.S. currency for humanitarian relief, and advised him how to petition for the return of the currency.  The traveler was then released to continue his journey.

A verbal or written declaration gets you nowhere if it is inaccurate. What form did he make the written declaration on and why? No declaration is required for monetary instruments of $10,000 or less, so why would Customs make him complete a written declaration?

The only reason would be to have affirmative proof that he did not make a proper verbal declaration of the money by being able to say, “See, he also lied about it in writing. It is not our word against his. His very own handwriting — his written declaration — also proves him guilty.”

By obtaining a written declaration, Dulles may have a stronger case if they try to prove that the money is subject to forfeiture for bulk cash smuggling violations.Yes, watch out in Dulles for strict enforcement of Customs guidelines concerning seizure of monetary instruments for structuring and bulk cash smuggling offenses.

 

Detroit Airport Currency Report Sign

CBP Seizure of Cash without Warrant

U.S. Customs & Border Protection can seize cash without a warrant when traveling internationally into or out of the United States if they have probable cause to believe that you violated the cash reporting requirement, the bulk cash smuggling laws, or the structuring laws. Most people know these laws simply as the $10,000 reporting requirement.

Does CBP need a warrant to seize money?

The U.S. Constitution creates an exception to the warrant requirement when you consent to the warrant requirement or when a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy. At the international border, the U.S. Supreme Court has said you have absolutely no reasonable expectation of privacy. Thus, CBP can seize your cash without requiring a warrant if you are at a border or are at an airport and flying into or out of the United States.

Furthermore, as if the interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court were not enough, Congress passed a law giving U.S. Customs & Border Protection the right to search and seize at the border, without a warrant. This appears in Title 31, which is the body of laws governing the federal currency reporting regulations.

31 USC 5316(b) says:

Searches at border. For purposes of ensuring compliance with the requirements of section 5316 [31 USCS § 5316], a customs officer may stop and search, at the border and without a search warrant, any vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or other conveyance, any envelope or other container, and any person entering or departing from the United States.

and 5316(c)(2) says…

(2) Civil forfeiture. Any property involved in a violation of section 5313, 5316, or 5324 of this title [31 USCS § 5313, 5316, or 5324], or any conspiracy to commit any such violation, and any property traceable to any such violation or conspiracy, may be seized and forfeited to the United States in accordance with the procedures governing civil forfeitures in money laundering cases pursuant to section 981(a)(1)(A) of title 18, United States Code.

Have you had cash seized by CBP without a warrant?

If you had cash seized by CBP without a warrant, there’s nothing wrong with that from CBP’s perspective. That’s legal, if traveling internationally. But, you still have some chance to get the money back by showing that the money is not connected to illegal activity.

If CBP seized your cash you need a lawyer. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact our customs lawyer for a free cash seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

The CBP global entry line at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Detroit Metro Airport CBP Seize $59,451 Cash

Finally, a CBP cash seizure press release from my own home port of Detroit that happened at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which is just a few miles down the road from our office. This one involves a U.S. citizen returning from China with his wife; together, the couple was found to be transporting more than $10,000 cash through Customs…. about $50,000 more, actually.

Here’s the full story from Detroit CBP:

DETROITOn November 28, 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized $59,451 in U.S. currency from a United States citizen after he failed to report the currency to CBP officers. The traveler is a member of the Global Entry trusted traveler program.

The male traveler and his wife arrived in Detroit on a flight from Beijing, China. He initially denied carrying $10,000 or more in U.S. currency or its equivalent in foreign currency. CBP Officers questioned the traveler as he and his wife attempted to exit the federal inspection area separately 13 minutes apart. Further inspection led to the discovery of $59,451 divided between the two.

“You must report to CBP that you are carrying $10,000 or more in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency or other monetary instruments when you travel into or out of the United States, especially if you are a member of Global Entry.” said Devin Chamberlain, CBP Detroit (Airport) Port Director. “There is no limit as to how much currency travelers can import or export. However, the law requires travelers to report when they carry at least $10,000 in monetary instruments.  Violators may face criminal prosecution and forfeiture of the undisclosed funds.”

As you can see, this story involves both a failure to report cash to customs and unlawful cash structuring. As we’ve explained time and time again at this customs law blog, cash will be seized by Detroit CBP if it is divided between a husband and wife (or other family members) traveling together and CBP has cause to believe it was done for the purpose of avoiding filing the currency report on form FinCen 105.

Had cash seized at Detroit Metro Airport by CBP?

If you’re like the people in this story and have suffered a cash seizure by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) at Detroit Metro Airport, you’re in need of a lawyer to help you get your money back and potentially avoid criminal prosecution or inquiry. Every case is different and nuances, exceptions and interpretations are almost always present making each case unique and challenging. Many people need help even understanding the election of proceedings form that is included with the notice of seizure.

Please make use of our customs currency seizure legal guide, but remember to also take advantage of our free currency seizure consultation by contacting us today by clicking on the contact button!