Category: Seizures in the News

CBP at JFK Seizes Cocaine in Beef Patties

We have our first stupid smuggling attempt of 2017. In a story similar to one we blogged about 3 years ago where CBP at JFK Seized Cocaine in Meat, another traveler thought it would be a good idea to hide some cocaine in some beef patties from Jamaica. I again explain: it is basically impossible to import meat into the United States without getting advance permission from either the FDA, USDA, or both.

In other words, the smuggler tried to hide something illegal in something that was illegal. If you’re going to have any chance at success in smuggling, you would need to hide something illegal in something legal.

You should not hide something illegal in something illegal, and moreover, something that a dog is going to naturally gravitate toward, like meat.

Here is the full story:

JAMAICA, N.Y. — A traveler had more than a snack in her suitcase when she arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.  Fortunately, U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were there to stop her in her tracks.

On January 17, CBP officers intercepted passenger Ms. Chantal Alecia Bedward, a citizen of Jamaica, arriving from Kingston, Jamaica.  During her examination, CBP officers discovered what appeared to be a box of Tastee Brand, Jamaican Beef Patties.  CBP officers escorted Ms. Bedward to a private search room where the box of beef patties was opened revealing 12 duct-taped packages.  The packages were probed producing a white powder that tested positive for cocaine.

Ms. Bedward was arrested for the importation of a controlled substance and was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  The approximate gross weight of cocaine seized was 4 lbs.

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

Dulles Airport Cash Seizure Nets CBP $40K

A Dulles airport cash seizure resulted in a $40,000 loss for a Ghanaian man who had his money seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) for allegedly falsely reporting having only $10,000, while he had hid another $30,000 within packages in his luggage. The hiding of the money is bulk cash smuggling, and the report of only $10,000 is a failure to report violation.

Dulles airport cash seizure showing $40,00 stacked on a table with envelopes
CBP officers seized $40,019 from a Ghanaian man for violating federal currency reporting laws at Washington Dulles International Airport on December 5, 2015.

The story, which we are including below, says that the person was told by Dulles CBP how to file an administrative petition for return of the “rest of the currency”. Here’s the truth about that: if the CAFRA notice of seizure alleges bulk cash smuggling (which is very probably based on what we are told here), then this person might only get back half of his money, or less, for the violation.

 This is why you should never take legal advice from someone who’s not a lawyer, and especially from a customs officer who just seized your money.
It may be more beneficial for this man to file a CAFRA seized asset claim form or make an offer in compromise, not a petition. If you’re wondering how best to handle your Dulles airport cash seizure or one that occurred somewhere else by customs,  contact us and read all we have written about customs money seizures.

The Dulles airport cash seizure news release excerpt, as told by CBP:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO), at Washington Dulles International Airport seized $40,019 Saturday from a Ghanaian citizen for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers can import or export; however federal law requires travelers to report to CBP amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

A man was boarding a flight to Ghana and was selected for questioning by CBP officers who were conducting an outbound enforcement operation on an international flight.  The man completed a financial form, reporting $10,000, however; a total of $40,019 was discovered — $10,019 on his person and $30,000 in his luggage secreted inside two computer boxes.  CBP officers seized the $40,019 and advised him how to petition for the return of the rest of the currency.

“Travelers who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of having their currency seized, and may potentially face criminal charges,” said Wayne Biondi, CBP Area Port Director for the Port of Washington Dulles. “The traveler was given the opportunity to truthfully report his currency. The easiest way to hold on to your money is to report it.”

 

U.S. Currency Seized by CBP Wrapped In Rubber Bands and Black Plastic on a Table

Unreported Bulk Cash of $112k Seized by CBP

Nearly $112,000 in unreported bulk cash was seized by U.S. Customs (CBP) officers from a U.S. citizen heading into Mexico last week. In its news releases CBP almost always calls the seized cash “unreported” or “undeclared” even when its apparently hidden for the purpose of evading the requirement to report more than $10,000 in cash to Customs. But this news release correctly calls it unreported bulk cash because it was was found “hidden within the vehicle.”

Unreported bulk cash seized by CBP wrapped in rubber bands and black plastic
Bundles of unreported bulk cash seized by CBP at the Brownsville port of entry wrapped in black plastic

The seizure took place on Wednesday, Dec. 2, when CBP officers working at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge came in contact with a black 2007 Chevy Tahoe as it attempted to exit the United States into Mexico. The driver, a 25-year-old male United States citizen from Brownsville, Texas, was selected for a routine outbound inspection. CBP officers referred the vehicle to secondary for further inspection. During the examination, CBP officers utilized a non-intrusive imaging system and detected anomalies within the vehicle. A physical search of the Chevy Tahoe resulted in the discovery of multiple packages of bulk U.S. currency totaling $111,456 hidden within the vehicle.

This is classic unreported bulk cash smuggling laws, and as we explain in that article on the topic, means that even if legitimate intended source and use of the money are proven, a very high rate of forfeiture will apply; meaning that in the best case scenario the unreported bulk cash smuggler will get 50% of his money back from Customs, and at worst, 0%.

Unreported bulk cash consequences

In unreported bulk cash smuggling cases a person may face criminal charges, or may just face civil forfeiture and civil monetary penalties for the violation. If you have had unreported bulk cash seized by Customs, get your free currency seizure consultation.

Two red envelopes with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.

Why some Chinese travel with cash leading to airport seizures

One question I face from most Americans when I tell them that our customs law firm helps people recover from money after customs money seizure is, “Why would anyone travel with all that money?”

Two red envelopes (hongbao) with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.
Some Chinese bring money in red envelopes (hongbao) for the Chinese new year celebration to give to family

It’s a good question.The answer? Many foreign governments, China in particular, restrict the amount and method that its citizens can take from the country via capital-controls; when the economy tanks or the currency is devalued, it increases the desire to move the money into another country before the market gets worse.

A few years ago the Wall Street Journal did a story about rich Chinese trying to get their money out of China, in the form of cash, that illustrates this point. The story is Chinese Fly Cash West, by the Suitcase and it provides some insight into why people travel with Cash from China, and why Customs seizes this money from them at airports:

China restricts private citizens from taking out more than $50,000 per individual per year. While it is hard to enforce these restrictions, Chinese authorities are scrutinizing outgoing private cash amid a broad anticorruption drive and as worry grows over the risks of capital flight.

The money seized at airports represents just a sliver of private Chinese money pouring out, but highlights that Chinese citizens are turning to one of the oldest and simplest methods to evade those controls: taking cash out in a suitcase.

The articles goes on to say:

From 2009 to 2011, U.S. airport customs officers seized over $5 million in undeclared cash from Chinese citizens, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That is 8.4% of the total seized and more than double the nearest amount for another nationality.

Transporting large amounts of cash isn’t necessarily illegal. Travelers must declare cash over $10,000 when they land in Canada or the U.S. Most undeclared cash is temporarily seized and subject to fines. If customs agents believe the cash comes from illegal activities, the onus is on the traveler to prove otherwise before it is returned.

I would correct this final paragraph with a few legal subtleties. If any amount of money is undeclared to customs, all of the money transported may be seized and, if legitimate source and use are not proven to Customs, will be forfeited forever (i.e., lost). This burden is on the traveler whether or not Customs believe the cash comes from illegal activities. It must always be proven.

Moving cash from China subjects a person to fines in China:

In China, violators of Beijing’s rules on moving out cash are also subject to fines. From 2007 to 2011, China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange levied such fines totaling 1.27 billion yuan ($202 million), according to the most recent data available.

The story goes on to state that seizures from 2009 to 2011 dramatically increased at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and San Francisco for money seized by Customs from Chinese nationals. But the numbers seized by U.S. Customs were smaller than that seized by Canadian customs. Apparently because property rules rules and investor visas are easier to obtain.

The New York Times also published a story we tweeted about:

I’m sure the cash is flooding the U.S. market now for the same reasons. Customs will seize unreported money from any Chinese traveler or immigrant at any U.S. airport if they catch them.

CBP Seized $45k cash in Nassau

CBP has preclearance centers which are basically the same as customs in the United States, but just located in a foreign country; this is to facilitate travel and enforcement of the laws. One such law enforced at preclearance centers is the requirement to report more than $10,000 being transported into the United States. CBP has pre-clearance in the Bahamas.

Over the weekend, Customs seized $45,000 in Nassau from one or more people for failing to report currency over $10,000, and tweeted a picture of the seizure:

This was responded to by a tweet that made me smile: “What are you going to do with it?” Classic! CBP has not responded (in fact, they may have deleted the tweet?). But here’s our answer so you will know what customs does with seized cash. I went ahead and explained that customs does not always keep seized currency if the person can prove it came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use by responding to the notice of seizure

Which caused another person to ask:

I responded that the best answer is is probably “Sometimes” and that the reporting requirement is actually “more than $10,000” not $10,000. Remember, I say sometimes because even if you make the an accurate report the money is still subject to seizure for other reasons, such as a suspicion that it is connected to money laundering or some criminal activity.

I suspect this Nassau customs cash confiscation of $45,000 is the result of more than one currency seizure for failure to report. That’s because the picture cash in the picture does not appear to add up to $45,000, but somewhere around $30,000 (assuming each stack is $1,000).

Don’t forget to follow Great Lakes Customs Law on Twitter!

 

CBP Seizes Hazardous (Lead) Toys in San Juan

We previously explained the risks that come with importing merchandise into the United States; how it can result in seizure, monetary penalties, and some strategies can use to defend itself against those penalties.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of San Juan recently seized hazardous toys in four different shipments which arrived between August and September, 2015, with a combined estimated domestic retail value of over $100K.  The toys were found to contain hazardous substances that could represent a risk for children.

Toys that were seized after CPSC laboratory analysis determined that they contained lead.
Toys were seized in October 2015, after CPSC laboratory analysis determined that they contained lead.

Working closely with U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) compliance investigators, CBP officials detained several shipments of toys from China on 4 separate incidents between the months of August and September of 2015.  All of the toys were seized in October 2015, after CPSC laboratory analysis determined that they contained lead in excess of the limit which may be harmful to the health and safety of children.

Children’s products, including toys, which are designed or intended primarily for use by children 12 years of age or younger, must not contain a concentration of lead greater than 0.009 percent (90 parts per million) in paint or any similar surface coatings.

“Import safety is a priority trade issue for CBP,” stated Edward Ryan, San Juan Assistant Director of Field Operations in the area of Trade.  “Our agency works with CPSC as well as nearly 50 other government agencies to enforce U.S. import regulations and to stop unsafe and illicit goods from entering the country.”

Importing hazardous items into the United States is a very serious matter. First, it is very likely that after seizure the property will be forfeited and destroyed by the U.S. government. Once forfeiture is complete, the person who caused the importation may get a notice of penalty or liquidated damages from U.S. Custom & Border Protection for importations contrary to law.

The importer will have a chance to respond to customs’ notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to reduce the penalty based on the presence of certain mitigating factors that customs particularly looks for. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. If the person fails to pay the penalty, the government can bring a lawsuit in federal district court to recover the penalty in the form of a judgment, after which point the government can lien property, garnish bank accounts, and seize property.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs seizures nationwide.

Philly CBP Seized $27k: Unreported & Concealed

Customs seized the equivalent to about USD $27,000 from a couple arriving from Belgium (the author of the story calls this Belgian couple a “Belgium couple”). Apart from that typo, the story is interesting because it seems to involve bulk cash smuggling. Bulk cash smuggling is when money is concealed with the intent to evade the reporting requirement.

Here, the couple reported travelling with €6,000, verbally and in writing. But, upon inspection, the CBP found and confiscated $14,321 and €11,567 “concealed inside a wallet, including inside the wallet lining”. Having the money in a wallet itself, and inside a sport coat pocket are not suspicious in and of itself… but the location of the money together with the failure to accurately report anywhere near the total amount being carried would give customs the cause to seize the cash for bulk cash smuggling. The original is here, excerpt below:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $27,001 in unreported currency from a Belgium couple for violating federal currency reporting requirements at Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday.

The couple reported that they possessed 3,000 Euro each, both verbally and on their CBP Declaration form. During a routine secondary examination, CBP officers discovered $14,321 U.S. dollars and 11,567 Euros concealed inside a wallet, including inside the wallet lining, and inside a sport coat pocket. The currency equated to $27,001 in equivalent U.S. dollars.

The article says it was seized for reporting violations, so it’s not entirely clear they alleged bulk cash smuggling. Only upon receipt of the notice of seizure will the reasons be finalized.

If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit. Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case
  14. Understanding CBP’s Election of Proceedings Form

$830K Seized for Bulk Cash Smuggling

When is a 2010 Dodge Journey worth almost a million dollars? When there is $830,000 dollars hidden in the dashboard.

CBP has broad search authority. In fact, not only do they have largely unfettered discretion to search at the border (not only land borders but airports), but they also have broad search authority at the “functional equivalent” of the border. The current state of the law in this area means that, among other things, CBP may pull over cars within 100 miles of the border and question those inside if they have reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity. If you want to learn more, read this nice summary of the law.

This 100-mile border search authority is the context for the following news release:

TEMECULA, Calif.—U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested a man Tuesday who had hidden large quantities of cash behind his SUV’s dashboard.

The incident occurred at approximately 2 p.m. when agents patrolling Interstate 15 stopped a 2010 Dodge Journey. The 54-year old Mexican national driver was unable to answer routine questions consistently.

A K-9 sniff of the man’s vehicle resulted in a positive alert, agents then brought the vehicle to the I-15 checkpoint to conduct a more thorough search. At the checkpoint, agents put the vehicle on a lift and discovered a hidden compartment behind the dashboard. The compartment contained 61 bundles of cash.

In total, the bundles contained $830,060 in U.S. currency. The man was arrested and charged with bulk cash smuggling.

If you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit. Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case

CBP Seizes $180k at Mexican Border

While most of our currency seizure clients are have their money taken from customs at an airport, we occasionally represent people who have had their money seized at a border crossing, such as the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. In this story from CBP, Customs seized nearly $200,000 from a man traveling to Mexico by car. This sounds like a classic case of bulk cash smuggling, and is no doubt the reason for the seizure.

In this case, we could give the man the benefit of the doubt and presume the legitimate source is an inheritance from his rich Uncle; and the intended use, perhaps he was paying cash for a nice place on the Yucatan (we’ve handled stranger cases). If we assume he proves these two things, then this situation was completely avoidable. But now, even if criminal charges are ultimately not filed or if he is ultimately found not guilty of a crime, he will still face civil forfeiture of the money and, if he wants it back, will have to fight for its return administratively, or in the courts.

Here’s the story (full version here):

Wood table filled with $180,000 dollars seized by the CBP.
Wood table filled with $180,000 dollars seized by the CBP on Oct. 14 after CBP officers working outbound inspections at the Hidalgo-Reynosa.

The seizure occurred on Oct. 14 after CBP officers working outbound inspections at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge referred a white 2001 Honda Civic for a secondary inspection. An inspection of the vehicle resulted in the discovery of several bundles of U.S. currency totaling $185,173 that was concealed within the Civic. CBP OFO seized the currency and the vehicle as well.

CBP OFO arrested the man who were [sic] subsequently released to the custody of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents for further investigation.

Our customs law firm handles currency/money seizures made by customs in Detroit and around the country; call (734) 855-4999 to consult with a customs lawyer today (you can read our popular page on Responding to a Customs Money Seizure HERE). We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case

CBP Seizes $310,000 for Failure to Declare Currency

While most of our currency seizure clients are have their money taken from customs at an airport, we ocasionally represent people who have had their money seized at a border crossing, such as the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. In this story from CBP, Customs seized over $300,000 from a middle aged Mexican couple who were returning to Mexico. In the vehicle, inside a microwave, they found the stash. This is a class case of bulk cash smuggling, and is no doubt the reason for the seizure. The story does not specifically mention if they were arrested or charged with a crime, but the government has 5 years to do so.

Discovered packages hidden in a microwave oven in the vehicle that contained $309,220 in unreported currency.
CBP officers conducted an intensive secondary examination of the vehicle and discovered packages hidden in a microwave oven in the vehicle that contained $309,220 in unreported currency.

The interception occurred on Sunday, Sept. 27 while CBP officers and Border Patrol agents conducting outbound (southbound) inspections at the Lincoln-Juarez Bridge referred a 2013 Chevy Aveo driven by a 42-year-old male Mexican citizen with a 51-year-old female Mexican citizen passenger for a secondary inspection. CBP officers conducted an intensive secondary examination of the vehicle and discovered packages hidden in a microwave oven in the vehicle that contained $309,220 in unreported currency.

CBP officers seized the currency and the Chevy Aveo. CBP officers turned over the driver and passenger to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S., however, if the quantity is more than $10,000, they will need to report it to CBP. “Money” means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign coins currently in circulation, currency, travelers’ checks in any form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

If you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit. Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case