On May 10, 2016, CBP seized $79,000 of bulk cash that smuggled beneath the rear seats of a Honda SUV that was driven by a 48 year old Mexican national. In the story, CBP says the money was in a “non-factory compartment” which means that the vehicle was “outfitted for smuggling.”
Customs and Border Protection officers seized more than $79,000 in unreported currency . . . Tuesday (May10) through the Port of Nogales.
At about the same time, officers performing outbound inspections referred a 48-year-old Mexican male for further inspection of his Honda SUV. Multiple packages of unreported currency was discovered within a non-factory compartment beneath the rear seats.
I’ve represented clients in some very bizarre circumstances, and hundreds of people who have currency seized by Customs. When it comes to money, people are often irrational. That being said, the fact that this seizure occurred in Nogales, Arizona, gives the cash involved in this bulk cash smuggling seizure the tinge of illegality because of its proximity to the drug trade.
Typically, legitimate source and use of seized money must be proven in order to get the money back from CBP. When the money is seized for bulk cash smuggling, legitimate source and intended use is still necessary to prove to get some money returned, but a further analysis is whether or not forfeiture of the entire amount of currency is an excessive fine under the U.S. constitution.
Also important to note is that the Honda SUV is also subject to seizure and forfeiture because it was involved in the commission of a crime, and furthermore, because it was a vehicle outfitted for smuggling. The mere fact of a hidden compartment designed to hide contraband, even if not full of contraband, is sufficient to make the vehicle subject to seizure and forfeiture.