$19,000 money seizures by Customs in Philadelphia

It’s nice to see news releases about things other than currency seizures that occur at the U.S.-Mexican border involving bulk cash smuggling. This particular one is from Philadelphia, and the original story is available here. Before we get to the meat of the story, let me point out a few things:


First of all, note that “surrendering” is an interest choice of words; if not just poor word choice by the author, it suggests that money was turned over voluntarily rather than seized, perhaps in recognition of some wrongdoing. I have never come across anyone who just surrenders their money to customs and then is instructed to file a petition. I have had Customs allege client’s had “abandoned” the money that was seized, but why the curious choice of words in either case I do not know.

Second, the story mentions that the Indian man paid a $1,000 civil penalty. This means that the man must have been travelling with sufficient documentation to prove legitimate source and no connection to criminal activity, and further, that he had a legitimate intended use for the money — necessary elements to responding to a notice of currency seizure. In some circumstances, where the amount transported is less than $25,000 Customs can eliminate the need to file a petition for the money by mitigating the seizure on-site.

The story, with my emphasis in bold:

Philadelphia – A U.S. citizen learned the importance of being truthful on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declarations and to CBP officers after surrendering $19,000 for violating federal currency reporting requirements Sunday at Philadelphia International Airport.

During a secondary inspection, the man, who arrived from Germany, reported possessing no money upon his return to the United States. CBP officers explained the currency reporting requirements to which the man said he understood, then verbally and in writing declared no money. CBP officers then discovered $19,417 in U.S. dollars and 405 Euros. CBP officers returned $417 in U.S. dollars and the 405 Euros as humanitarian relief, advised the man as to the process to petition for the remaining currency, and released him.

[ . . . ]

“Customs and Border Protection officers offer travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report their currency, but those who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements face severe consequences, such as hefty penalties, having their currency seized, or potential criminal charges,” said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “The easiest way to keep your currency is to truthfully report it.”

CBP officers assessed a $1,000 civil penalty to a second traveler, an Indian man who arrived Saturday from Germany after officers discovered $17,750 in U.S. dollars and 14,330 in Indian Rupees in his possession. The combined currency equated to$18,007 in U.S. dollars.

International travelers who arrive or depart the United States in possession of more than $10,000 or equivalent foreign currency are required to report all currency to CBP officers and complete a Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) form.

Do not decide how to respond to a CAFRA Notice without first consulting an attorney. Any mistake or error in judgment you make can cost you dearly. The Petition process is a legal process. The petition itself is and should always be a legal document, no different than in any other legal proceeding, that contains detailed factual narrative, what led to the seizure, a review of the relevant law, regulations and Custom’s own guidelines concerning the criteria for remission. When the facts allow for it, our Petition will always include a strong argument for return of the money in full, or even when there is a valid basis for the currency seizure, a strong argument for the money to be returned upon payment of a fine in the smallest amount of money possible, rather than forfeiture of all your money.

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