CBP officer inspecting traveler's backpack

Dulles CBP Seizes Cash bound for Ghana

Dulles airport Customs officers seized more than $20,000 from passengers who were leaving to Ghana for not reporting it. The story, reported by CBP on June 14, describes the passengers as a “couple” who were in possession of several envelopes full of $21,920, despite reporting both by word and writing that they carried $10,000.

STERLING, Virginia — Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $21,920 in unreported currency from a Ghana-bound couple at Washington Dulles International Airport Wednesday.

The couple verbally and in writing told CBP officers that they possessed $10,000. Officers discovered several envelopes in the woman’s carry-on bag that contained a combined $21,920. Officers seized the currency for violating federal currency reporting requirements, then remitted $920 as humanitarian relief and released the couple.

CBP officers seized a combined $43,269 from two groups of Ghana-bound travelers May 29 and May 30.

Losing your money for not reporting it easy, but getting back after a seizure can be very hard. If you want to know your options and get some legal advice, why not give us a call for a free consultation? We’ll be happy to evaluate your case, explain your options, and quote you a fee for our services which usually will not need to be paid up front.

Stacks of cash and a pile of envelopes seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection

$15k in Cash Not Reported to Customs at Dulles Airport, Seized

CBP seized $15,000 in cash that was being transported to Ghana from a traveler at Dulles Airport.

The story, quoted below, references some “travel tips” shared by CBP Dulles. Apparently, the ‘travel tips’ advise about “truthfully report[ing] all currency they possess to a CBP officer during inspection.”

That’s a good idea, but the best idea is to report it to a CBP officer before inspection, as the law requires. 

In this money seizure encounter, a dog alerted the currency and CBP asked him how much he carried after they “explained the currency reporting requirements” (i.e., report what you carry if more than $10,000).

At this point, the violation of the currency reporting requirements has occurred. The money has not been reported to CBP, and the man likely is about to leave the United States. That’s all that’s necessary to violate the reporting requirement under 31 USC 5316.

The man reported he had $8,000, verbally and in writing.This is the man then digging himself into a deeper hole with CBP. Perhaps they would look past his initial failure to report if he accurately reported how much he was carrying when he was asked by CBP, after the dog alerted to money. Maybe, maybe not. But at this point, incorrectly stating the amount of cash you have on you is not going to end well; it will end in a seizure of the money.

The story, as reported by CBP, follows:

STERLING, Virginia — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently issued travel tips for international travel through Washington Dulles International Airport. Chiefly among those tips is for travelers to truthfully report all currency they possess to a CBP officer during inspection. 

A traveler leaving for Ghana Wednesday learned that lesson when CBP officers seized $15,415 of unreported currency he had in his possession.

While working a departure gate at Dulles airport, a CBP currency detector dog alerted to a carry-on bag that a U.S. citizen man carried. Officers explained the currency reporting requirements to the man and the man reported verbally and in writing that he possessed $8,000. An examination revealed that the man possessed $15,415. Officers seized the currency and returned $115 to the man as a humanitarian release, and then released the traveler. 

It is perfectly legal to carry large sums of currency in or out of the United States. However, federal law requires that travelers who possess $10,000 or more in currency or other monetary instruments must report it all to a CBP officer at the airport, seaport, or land border crossing when entering or leaving the country.

$20,000 in U.S. Currency stacked in piles after seizure by Customs at Boston Logan airport.

Customs seizures $21k cash at Baltimore airport (BWI)

Customs officers confiscated about $21,000 from a couple coming to the United States from Nigeria in early June. The cash seizure took place in Baltimore, at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

The story points out the potential criminal consequences of not reporting money, and also incorrectly states the law (again, saying “$10,000 or more” rather than “more than $10,000” as the requirement for reporting cash to CBP on FinCen 105).

The story, originally published here by CBP, is below: 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized nearly $21,000 of unreported currency Friday at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

A Nigerian couple, who arrived on a flight from London, reported to CBP officers that they possessed $15,000 in currency. Officers discovered an additional $5,850 in the woman’s purse. Officers seized $20,850 and then released $4,990 to the couple as humanitarian relief. Officers released the couple to continue their visit.

It is perfectly legal to carry large sums of currency in or out of the United States. However, federal law requires that travelers who possess $10,000 or more [ugh! it’s more than $10,000] in currency or other monetary instruments must report it all to a CBP officer at the airport, seaport, or land border crossing when entering or leaving the country.

“Customs and Border Protection officers are highly trained to uncover illicit activity and they are committed to enforcing the laws of the United States,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Field Operations Director in Baltimore. “Unreported currency often can be proceeds from alleged illicit activity, or used to fund transnational criminal organizations and I commend our officers on this interception”.

CBP recently issued travel tips for international travel through BWI. Chiefly among those tips is for travelers to truthfully report all currency they possess to a CBP officer during inspection.

Consequences for violating U.S. currency reporting laws are severe; penalties may include seizure of most or all of the traveler’s currency, and potential criminal charges.

CBP uses a variety of techniques to intercept narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products, and to assure that global tourism remains safe and strong. On a typical day, CBP seizes an average of about $290,000 in unreported or illicit currency along our nation’s borders. Learn more about what CBP accomplishes during “A Typical Day.

 

Piles of cash seized by CBP officers at Philadelphia airport.

Philadelphia CBP Seizes $17k in Cash to Jamaica

CBP in Philadelphia seized almost $17,000 from a Jamaican national who is also a permanent resident of the United States. CBP does enforce the currency reporting requirement in Philadelphia, but based on my own experience, they do not do so very often. Therefore, this man is probably not a very lucky guy.

As the press release states, he reported only having $8,000 to CBP officer who asked him how much cash he was carrying, but they later discovered a total of $16,542 in his carry-on bag. He was not arrested.

If you have had cash seized at Philadelphia International Airport, you’re among the few. The last case I had in Philadelphia was in 2016, and the only other time before that was in 2015, despite having done nearly 350 cases at other ports/locations around the country. In both instances, the case number and timing of the seizure told me that CBP in Philadelphia seizes property at the airport from travelers probably less than 200 times per year.

But CBP at Philadelphia International Airport has had some big seizures. About a year ago we wrote about two customs cash seizures at Philly International Airport that totaled $152,000.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $16,542 in unreported currency from a Jamaica-bound man at Philadelphia International Airport Thursday. Here’s the story:

The man, a Jamaican citizen and U.S. lawful permanent resident, verbally told CBP officers that he possessed $6,000. Officers explained federal currency reporting requirements and the man verbally and in writing reported that he possessed $8,000. Officers discovered $16,542 in the man’s carry-on bag. Officers seized the currency and released the traveler.

It is perfectly legal to carry large sums of currency in or out of the United States. However, federal law requires that travelers who possess $10,000or more in currency [Editor: incorrect, “more than $10,000” is the requirement] or other monetary instruments must report it all to a CBP officer at the airport, seaport, or land border crossing when entering or leaving the country.

Consequences for violating U.S. currency reporting laws are severe; penalties may include seizure of most or all of the traveler’s currency, and potential criminal charges.

“When Customs and Border Protection officers encounter travelers who don’t properly declare or they conceal large amounts of currency when leaving the country, there can be links to transnational criminal organizations,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Field Operations Director in Baltimore. “The hard work and success of our officers demonstrates CBP’s commitment to disrupting and dismantling these groups and the illicit operations they conduct.”

CBP recently issued travel tips for international travel through Philadelphia International Airport. Chiefly among those tips is for travelers to truthfully report all currency they possess to a CBP officer during inspection.

CBP uses a variety of techniques to intercept narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products, and to assure that global tourism remains safe and strong. On a typical day, CBP seizes an average of about $290,000 in unreported or illicit currency along our nation’s borders. Learn more about what CBP accomplishes during “A Typical Day.

 

$28k laid out on a white table at Dulles airport CBP

Dulles Cash Seizure: $28k to Ghana

Last week or so, CBP at Dulles reported on some recent seizure activity for enforcing the currency reporting requirement for travelers heading to Ghana with  more than $10,000. In this case, the money was discovered when a dog smelled the money in a woman’s carry-on bag. Upon inspection and questioning, the officers found out she structured the money by giving it 5 other people (also traveling to Ghana) on the flight.

Here’s the full story here. 

STERLING, Virginia — On consecutive days, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currency detector dog alert resulted in the seizure Thursday of unreported currency from Ghana-bound travelers at Washington Dulles International Airport.

The currency K9 alerted to one passenger’s carry-on bag. She reported to CBP officers that she possessed $8,000. Officers discovered $11,500 in her carry-on.

The woman then admitted to traveling with four additional passengers. She allegedly reported that her travel companions were carrying currency for her, which is known as structuring, to avoid exceeding the $10,000 reporting threshold. Structuring is a serious allegation that may result in federal prosecution. However, no charges have been filed at this time.

CBP officers had the four additional travelers and their baggage pulled from the flight for further inspection. Officers discovered an additional $16,354 of the first woman’s currency among three of her four travel companions. Officers seized a total of $27,854 and provided the woman $154 as humanitarian relief. Officers released all five travelers.

All five travelers were born in Ghana. Three are naturalized U.S. citizens, one is a U.S. lawful permanent resident of Ghana citizenship, and one is a Ghana citizen.

It is perfectly legal to carry large sums of currency in or out of the United States. However, federal law requires that travelers who possess $10,000 or more in currency or other monetary instruments must report it all to a CBP officer at the airport, seaport, or land border crossing when entering or leaving the country.

“Structuring currency to deliberately circumvent U.S. law is a serious violation that brings with it potentially severe consequences to the violator, but it does happen and so Customs and Border Protection officers remain vigilant to intercept these currency structuring efforts,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Field Operations Director in Baltimore. “CBP remains committed to enforcing all of our nation’s laws, including federal currency reporting laws, at our nation’s international ports of entry.”

 

Hundred dollar bills seized by CBP in Detroit

CBP Cash Seizures and Enforcement Increase at Detroit Metro Airport

A story that CBP in Detroit is increasing cash reporting enforcement at Detroit Metro Airport was all over the local news headlines last week (see here, and here), but because of it, I was not able to post and comment about it until now (yes, it’s busy).

CBP Detroit has released mid-(fiscal)-year statistics in the past, and they have done so again this year. They usually come around May (we commented on it in 2017, further back in 2015 and first in 2013).

Most of the seizures happen at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Michigan. CBP Oficcers there are very active in seizing money. And for good reason: lot’s of people don’t report it, or for some reason, think it’s illegal to carry cash (it’s not!). There’s a lot of people traveling with cash there, because it’s an ethnically diverse area and a connecting hub for many flights where people tend to use cash: China, India, and the Middle East.

How much of a difference is this over past years, really? Well, here’s a summary of all data from this story and comparing it to those we wrote about in years past,

  • October 1, 2016 to May 2, 2017 = $4.4 million (2+ quarters)
  • October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015 = $10,067,095 (full year)
  • October 1, 2018 o March 31, 2019 = $3,852,252 (2 quarters)
  • October 1, 2017 to March 31, 2019 = $2,384,360 (2 quarters)

While we don’t have the exact data for an apples-to-apples comparison, it looks like Detroit CBP at Metro Airport is closely approximating the seizure activity of the their 2016-2017 fiscal year this year, when they seized $4.4 million by May 2.

We’ve definitely noticed an increase a clients reporting seized money from CBP, especially for this time of year. So far, our firm has handled 48 cases this fiscal year — and a total of 342 since 2012. We are by far the most experienced law firm to help get seized money back from Detroit Customs.

The original story can be read here, but is reproduced below:

ROMULUS, Mich. – During the first half of fiscal year 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers within the Detroit Field Office achieved a 62% increase in the seizure of unreported currency from international passengers as compared to the same period last year. A vast majority of the seizures occurred at Detroit Metro Airport.

Thus far in fiscal year 2019 starting October 1 and ending March 31, CBP has seized $3,852,262 in unreported currency from international travelers, this compares to $2,384,360 seized during the same time frame for fiscal year 2018.

CBP in conjunction with its Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partners, continues its efforts to prevent the unreported movement of currency through the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and other ports of entry within the Detroit Field Office.  

“This increase clearly demonstrates our continued commitment, and that of our partners, to protect the United States from proceeds of criminal activity,” said Devin Chamberlain, CBP Port Director at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Bulk cash smuggling is the act of concealing currency and/or reportable monetary instruments with the intent of evading currency reporting requirements, in an attempt to transfer or transport the currency or monetary instrument(s) across an international border.

While it is not a crime to carry more than $10,000, federal currency reporting requirements state that travelers must report currency or monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or more [Editor: This is wrong. It’s “more than $10,000”) to a CBP officer upon entry to or exit from the United States.  Failure to declare may result in the seizure of the currency, and possible arrest.  An individual may petition for the return of currency seized [Editor: Or file a claim, make an offer in compromise, etc.], but the petitioner must prove that the source and intended use of the currency was legitimate.

Over $500,000 seized by Customs storedi n clear evidence bags

Customs Took $500k Cash at San Juan

There is a lot of cash that passes through the nation’s airports and seaports carried by a lot of people. As we have shown through the years here at this customs cash seizure blog and in our many articles about the procedures for getting back cash taken by Customs, sometimes that money is from illegal and illegitimate sources (i.e., the proceeds of a crime).

In a recent case, Customs in San Juan Puerto Rico confiscated nearly a half million dollars in two separate money seizure incidents. The full story is quoted below, but note these interesting points:

  • $350k was concealed within the rails of 9 suitcases, but the woman only reported carrying $1,600
  • $214k was concealed under the carpet of a cargo van, the male driver reported only carrying $4,000

On to the story:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers seized over $500K in undeclared currency in two separate incidents at the Port of San Juan and the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.

On Mar. 30, during luggage inspections authorized by federal law, CBP officers found US currency concealed within the rails of nine suitcases.

Rudi Alfonso Hernandez-Simon, 52, a citizen of the Dominican Republic failed to declare accurately having in his possession a total of $353,372. 

Mr. Hernandez-Simon, who also had a carry-on bag and one (1) backpack, declared to be transporting approximately $1,600.  

On Apr. 1, CBP officers inspecting outbound vehicles to be transported onboard the ferry M/V KYDON, bound to Santo Domingo, selected a Ford E-350 cargo vehicle for further examination.

The driver, a legal permanent resident with citizenship from the Dominican Republic, declared being in possession of $4,000. 

A CBP K-9 discovered thirteen (13) packages of US currency concealed under the carpet, between the driver and passenger seats, totaling $214,037. 

“Travelers can carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S. However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP,” indicated Edwin Cruz, San Juan Area Port Director.   “Failure to report may result in seizure of the currency, penalties and/or arrest.”

In each incident, CBP seized the currency under failure to declare and bulk cash smuggling laws.   U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents arrested Mr. Hernandez-Simon who appeared before the US District Court in San Juan.  HSI will proceed with an investigation for both cases.

Currency bundles wrapped in black tape were hidden within the tailgate of the truck. The cash was seized by CBP.

Customs Confiscates $170k Cash from Truck Tailgate

In Texas recently, the CBP seized a lot of cash that was hidden inside the tailgate of a pick-up truck that was being driven into Mexico.

That last line of the story is ever-present in cash seizure news releases, but gives the wrong impression. What do you supposed would happen if the driver reported the money in this case?

“Excuse me, officer, I would like a FinCen 105 because I have to report some money; I’ve got $170,000 stored in my tailgate.”

If you’ve got $170,000 stored in your tailgate, surely you’re up to no good. And even if you report the money as required by 31 USC 5316, the officers are probably still going to seize the money for other alleged criminal activity, like money laundering, drug trafficking, etc.

Here’s the text of the story, enjoy!

PRESIDIO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Presidio port of entry seized $170,030 Saturday afternoon. The money was discovered hidden in the tailgate of a pick-up truck.

CBP officers were conducting an outbound operation at the Presidio crossing when at approximately 12:50 p.m. a 2018 Nissan Titan pick-up driven by a 48-year-old U.S. citizen, accompanied by a 23-year-old Mexican citizen passenger approached the inspection area. Further inspection of the vehicle revealed currency bundles wrapped in black tape hidden within the tailgate of the truck.

CBP officers seized the money and vehicle and turned the driver and passenger to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI special agents in connection with the failed smuggling attempt.

“CBP officers are working hard to stop the illegal movement of guns, ammunition and unreported currency,” said Michael Neipert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection 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.”

$100 bills wrapped in aluminum foil smuggled in a drum of paint seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection

CBP Seizes Smuggled $390k at San Juan

U.S. Customs & Border Protection seized almost $400,000 USD that was part of a bulk cash smuggling incident in the middle of March at the Port of San Juan, in Puerto Rico.

The story is interesting because of its novelty. The amazing ability of CBP officers do detect when things are “off” is also on display in this story. Basically, a cargo ship was leaving Puerto Rico with two vehicles within it (and presumably, much more other cargo).

The vehicles were inspected, and inside was found 2 “excessively heavy” 55 gallon barrels of liquid paint. Inside the barrels were 72 packages of currency totaling $384,840 dollars.

In a second, apparently related, incident, CBP seized $10,000 that was vacuum packed into an ice tea container, all hidden within a cardboard barrel. Here’s the full story:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers seized over $390K concealed inside two vehicles in separate incidents last week in the Port of San Juan.    

On Mar. 11, during the boarding process at the ferry M/V Maestro Universe, bound to the City of Santo Domingo, CBP officers inspected two (2) excessively heavy 55 gallon barrels of liquid paint, finding seventy-two (72) packages of unreported currency inside.   The currency amounted to $384,840.

In another cardboard barrel, Officers found a vacuumed pack bag from a Lipton Ice Tea container with $10,000 in 100-dollar bills.

“Travelers can carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S. However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP,” indicated Edwin Cruz, San Juan Area Port Director.   “Failure to report may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.”

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assumed custody of the seized currency for further investigation. 


The story ends unusually, but not uncommonly, be explaining the travelers can transport more than $10,000 so long as they report the money. However, that warning doesn’t seem to be a factor here — because it was a cargo ship, no one was traveling with the money such that they could have reported in that manner.

CBP Seizes $18,000 in Abu Dhabi, UAE

CBP seized about $18,000 from a set of travelers traveling to the United States from the United Arab Emirates.

That’s not unusual but might be surprising to some, because most seizures occur on U.S. soil either at the time of departure, or at arrival. CBP operates “preclearance” centers in a few spots around the globe. The idea of the preclearance center is to do the customs work before the person ever steps on U.S. soil, so that upon their arrival, they do not have to go through customs at all, because it was already done in the country of departure.

It’s not too unusual, because since October 1, 2018, CBP has seized more than $2 million from passengers at pre-clearance centers for violations of the currency reporting requirements.

The Wikipedia article says that CBP officers operating on foreign soil do not have the full power of search and arrest that they enjoy in the United States, and so most things must be done with the consent of the passenger:

Since CBP does not have legal powers on foreign soil, passengers can be detained for local laws only by local authorities. Passengers can choose to abandon their flight and refuse search, and unlike in the United States, officers cannot search them. Most preclearance facilities have a sign explaining so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_border_preclearance

The particulars of these case, beyond the fact that it happened in the UAE, are not different from situations we usually blog about. So, on to the story:

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Abu Dhabi Preclearance seized $18,357 in unreported currency, Feb. 18. 

A U.S. couple and another family member were traveling to Wisconsin and Iowa respectively when CBP officers working at the Preclearance facility asked the family for a currency declaration.  The family reported carrying $8500.

When CBP officers requested the family complete the required FinCEN Form, the family group amended the currency amount to $17,000.  However, during the baggage examination, CBP officers discovered the U.S. couple was carrying $18,357. 

“International travelers can carry an unlimited amount of money into or departing from the U.S., but they are required to report traveling with currency over $10,000,” said CBP Preclearance Director of Field Operations Clint Lamm.  “Those who refuse to comply with the federal reporting requirements risk having the currency seized.”

The travelers were given multiple opportunities to truthfully report the amount of money they were carrying.  CBP officers seized $17,357 and the group was allowed to continue their travel.

In FY 2019, CBP Preclearance has seized nearly $2 million in unreported currency from travelers refusing to provide a truthful declaration.