CBP San Juan Seizes $844,000 Smuggled in TVs

This year, United States Customs & Border Protection officers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, made a staggering cash seizure of $844,000 that being exported from the Puerto Rico (a territory, therefore, within the customs territory of the United States).

Though the story is lacking in many details, it appears the vehicle was being exported from Puerto Rico to destinations unknown, when Customs officers became suspicious about it for some reason. They pulled the vehicle aside for closer examination, and discovered 16 smart TV boxes.

After imaging the boxes, they opened them up and “bundles containing US currency appeared.” That’s how the story puts it (was the cash hidden inside the boxes like a jack-in-the-box?).

Otherwise, the story – though published through another media outlet and available for reading here — appears to hew closely to the standard CBP news release narrative, including a disclaimer that it is OK for travelings to carry more than $10,000 into or out of the country, but it must be reported. This is confusing, especially because the story makes no factual assertion that the money was carried by a traveler.

 

CBP Officers Seize $13,000 in Arizona

Customs seized $13,000 in money, and arrested, a Yuma, Arizona resident. The man was traveling on a shuttle from Phoenix and was leaving for Mexico.

Because the man did not declare the money as required by 31 USC 5316 (reports of currency), Customs seized the money from the man. As we strive to explain on this customs law blog, importing and exporting more than $10,000 in money is not illegal if the money is reported (preferably on form FinCen105) to Customs prior to attempting to enter or leave the country.

The story, quoted below, does not indicate the man was arrested (although he could have been, as not reporting cash is a crime), but only “turned . . . over to” HSI agents.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Arizona’s Port of Lukeville arrested a Yuma resident after seizing more than $13,000 in undeclared currency Friday.

Officers performing outbound inspections of an arriving shuttle from Phoenix referred a 24-year-old man for further inspection when a search of his luggage led to suspicion. Officers discovered multiple envelopes inside of a backpack with a cash count of more than $13,200.

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

Have you failed to report money to Customs?

If you failed to report money to Customs and had the cash seized, your rights may have been violated and you can try to get the money back. In most cases, filing an administrative petition for relief or a CAFRA seized asset claim to initiate judicial proceedings is the best way to get your seized cash back from Customs. For more information, reading our customs money seizure legal guide and give us a call!

A September 7 2018 notice of seizure and intent to forfeit cash seized at Detroit Metropolital airport.

Detroit Airport Cash Forfeiture Notices: September 7 2018

Last Friday, Customs published a notice last Friday, September 7, 2018, for cash that was seized at Detroit airport only 3 days earlier, on September 4. We, at Great Lakes Customs Law, monitor these notices on a weekly basis because, inevitably, we need them to help our clients who have been forced to abandon cash.

This notice seems highly unusual, as it usually takes several days for information to get from the CBP officers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport to the administrative and enforcement wing of CBP — Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures (FP&F) office — at the McNamara Federal Building. Even after it is delivered to FP&F, I strongly suspect that it takes a few days to overcome bureacratic inertia and get it over to the people at forfeiture.gov (which, I believe, is run by the DOJ).

Here’s the text of the relevant notice:

PUBLICATION/POSTING START: September 07, 2018
PUBLICATION/POSTING END: October 07, 2018
DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM: November 06, 2018

DETROIT

2018380700135201-0001-0000, Seized on 09/04/2018; At the port of DETROIT AIRPORT; U.S. Currency Retained; 527; PC; Valued at $48,777.00; For violation of 31 USC 5317(c)(2), 31 USC 5316(a)(1)(B)

It is very curious to me that this seizure and the publication of the intent to forfeit was “fast-tracked” in a matter of only 3 days between seizure and publication.

Is Detroit CBP forfeiting your cash?

If CBP in Detroit seized and is forfeiting your cash, you have rights to get your cash back. Read 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.
Piles of cash sit atop evidence bags after seizure by U.S. Customs in Brownsville, Texas

Customs Seizes $46,536 in Bulk Cash at B&M Bridge

Earlier this year, CBP officers in Brownsville, Texas, seized a lot of money from a a pedestrian who was leaving the United States for Mexico, although the man was a Mexican national. Cash seizures by Customs officials at the land border between the United States in Mexico in such a large a mount are usually connected with the illegal drug trade.

That’s just one reason why traveling with $46,000, by foot to Mexico, is more suspicious than flying with $46,000 from Hong Kong to Las Vegas for a trip.

The Customs officers who seized the cash search him, and discovered “multiple packages” of bulk cash that totaled more than $46,000. The cash was seized, and the man was arrested (hint: bulk cash smuggling is a crime). Traveling with money out of the country is not illegal, but traveling with more than $10,000 out of the country and not reporting it to CBP is illegal, and will very likely result in seizure of the money.

The full story follows:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge Port of Entry this weekend seized $46,536 in bulk, unreported U.S. currency.

“Our officer’s constant vigilance and experience made this currency seizure possible,” said Port Director Tater Ortiz, Brownsville Port of Entry.

The seizure took place on Sunday, Mar. 18, when CBP officers working at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge came in contact with a 22-year-old male Mexican citizen from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, who was selected for a routine outbound inspection. CBP officers conducted a visual and physical search of the bags the traveler was carrying which resulted in the discovery of multiple packages of bulk U.S. currency totaling $46,536 hidden within the bags.

CBP officers seized the currency, arrested the traveler and turned him over to the custody of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Have you had bulk cash seized by CBP?

The process of getting undeclared currency seized by CBP back is long and complicated; most importantly, legitimate source and intended use must be proven. If CBP seized bulk cash from you, 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.

Cash seized by CBP in Dulles airport for failure to report laid out on a table with Homeland Security logo

CBP Seizes $170k from 7 Travelers at Dulles

Dulles CBP does it again, and again.. and again, again, again, and again, and… again. That is, they sezied almost $170,000 in cash at Dulles airport for not reporting cash to Customs before leaving the country.

The 7 cash seizures by Customs range over a 2 week period, from July 13 to August 1. Travelers were Cash seized by Customs not reported and hidden in a bag at Dulles airporttaking cash to Belgium, Ghana, Turkey, Qatar, and Serbia. In each case, the travelers were stopped by CBP before boarding their plan and incorrectly reported the amount of money they were traveling, when asked.

Note that, if you’re boarding your flight and you haven’t already made the report, even if you make an accurate report when stopped, you’ve already committed the violation of failure to report. Also, in these cases, not filing the report is only one of the potential charges; additionally, the money could be seized for bulk cash smuggling and structuring offenses, leading to a higher penalty. Worse yet, CBP can criminally indict any person for bulk cash smuggling, structuring, failing to report, and also making false statements to federal officials (i.e., reporting the wrong amount of money).

STERLING, Va., — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $169,431 during seven recent violations of federal currency reporting laws at Washington Dulles International Airport.

It is not against the law to carry large amounts of currency in or out of the United States.  Arriving or departing travelers may carry as much currency as they wish.  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 where they enter or leave 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, as illustrated by the following cases, and subjected to potential criminal charges.

  • CBP officers seized $21,735 from a Cameroon woman and son boarding a flight to Belgium August 1.  The family reported $9,700.  Officers discovered additional currency in envelopes in a carry-on bag.  Officers released $735 to the family for humanitarian purposes and released the family.
  • CBP officers seized $30,721 from a U.S. man boarding a flight to Ghana July 30.  The man verbally reported $9,000 then wrote down that he possessed $11,000.  Officers discovered additional currency in white envelopes in a carry-on bag. Officers released $721 to the man for humanitarian purposes and released him.
  • CBP officers seized $26,177 from a U.S. family boarding a flight to Turkey July 29.  The family reported $21,000.  Officers discovered additional currency concealed inside children’s socks and in cell phone cases. Officers released $1,177 to the man for humanitarian purposes and released him.
  • CBP officers seized $34,585 from a U.S. man and his Ghanaian wife boarding a flight to Ghana July 23.  The couple reported that they each possessed $10,000.  Officers discovered additional currency during an inspection.  Officers released $1,585 to the couple for humanitarian purposes and released them.
  • CBP officers seized $18,390 from a U.S. couple boarding a flight to Turkey July 21.  The couple reported $9,090.  Officers discovered additional currency in an envelope in a carry-on bag.  Officers released $390 to the couple for humanitarian purposes and released them.
  • CBP officers seized $20,645 from a U.S. man and his Jordanian wife boarding a flight to Qatar July 19.  The couple reported $14,020.  Officers discovered additional currency in envelopes in the woman’s purse.  Officers released $390 to the couple for humanitarian purposes and released them.
  • CBP officers seized $17,178 from a Kosovo woman boarding a flight to Serbia July 13.  The woman reported $8,000.  Officers discovered additional currency in luggage and carry-on bags.  Officers released $1,578 to the woman for humanitarian purposes and released the family.

In each case, CBP officers read the federal reporting requirements to the travelers and solicited their understanding of the law.  Officers afforded the travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report all currency they possessed, both verbally and in writing.

“Customs and Border Protection outbound inspections protect against unreported exportations of bulk U.S. currency, which often can be proceeds from alleged illicit activity, or that fund transnational criminal organizations,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Field Operations Director in Baltimore.  “These currency seizures are a direct reflection of CBP’s continuing commitment to enforcing all U.S. laws, including federal currency reporting laws, at our nation’s international ports of entry.”

Dulles is one of the more aggressive ports when it comes to seizures, penalties, and criminal indictments. If you’ve had money seized by Customs, you should hire a lawyer.

$100 bills laid out on table seized by Customs

CBP Seizes $879K Smuggled by Plane

Customs officers in San Antonio, Texas, seized a very significant amount of cash – $879,000. Typically, we only read about such large amounts of cash being seized by CBP from vehicles, as one can easily imagine is part of the illegal drug trade.

But this time, the money was leaving the country on a private plan. The individuals involved were arrested for bulk cash smuggling. Here’s the story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the San Antonio International Airport intercepted a pair of travelers allegedly smuggling currency out of the U.S. July 15.

The travelers were carrying $879,695 packed in boxes and duct taped closed and were en route to Mexico via private aircraft when they were apprehended.

Two CBP officers arrived to San Antonio’s Fixed Base Operation to conduct an outbound inspection on a private aircraft when they noticed the aircraft was on the runway preparing for departure.  The officers informed the Federal Aviation Administration tower that the aircraft had not been cleared for departure and to direct the plane to the CBP General Aviation Facility.

When the aircraft arrived, the officers began their inspection, which included asking the passengers for an oral declaration of any currency or monetary instruments they were carrying.  Each passenger provided a negative oral declaration followed by a negative written declaration on CBP Form 6051B.

An inspection of the aircraft revealed taped boxes with stacks of currency concealed inside.  CBP officers arrested two Mexican nationals for allegedly intending to evade the currency reporting requirements by knowingly concealing more than $10,000 in currency or other monetary instruments and attempting to transport the currency from within the U.S. to a place outside of the U.S.

[. . . ]

“One of the reasons CBP performs outbound inspections is to protect against unreported exportations of bulk U.S. currency, which often can be proceeds from alleged illicit activity, or currency that funds transnational criminal organizations,” said Houston’s CBP Acting Director of Field Operations Beverly Good. “This significant currency seizure is a direct reflection of our continuing commitment to enforcing all U.S. laws, including federal currency reporting requirements.”

This is among the largest single seizure of unreported currency in the Houston Field Office region which includes San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston.  The two men were arrested and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations.

On a typical day in 2017, CBP officers around the country seized $265,205 in undeclared or illicit currency.

Has CBP San Antonio Seized Your Cash?

If CBP seized your cash at San Antonio International Airport, you should give us a call for a free currency seizure consultation and make use of our free customs cash seizure legal guide.

CBP Seizes $92k in Cash at Dulles From 5 Travelers

CBP officers at Dulles airport recently shared some news about a total of 5 cash seizures that they did, resulting in a seizure of nearly $100,000 from people who were leaving the country and, who in leaving, failed to report that they were carrying more than $10,000 in cash. It’s been 3 long months since we’ve heard about a seizure from Dulles.
I’ve noticed a significant increase in CBP enforcement (i.e., penalty, seizure, etc.) activity across the board. Whether that is the result of a stronger, or more confident consumer, or the result of a new focus on enforcement by the professionals at CBP, I don’t know. It’s probably a little bit of both. But, whatever it is — these 5 people who had their money taken by CBP at Dulles airport are part of a wave people who CBP is citing for not following the law.
The story is below, with my comments:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized nearly $91,819 during five recent violations of federal reporting laws at Washington Dulles International Airport.
Consequences for violating U.S. currency laws are severe: from loss of all unreported currency to potential criminal charges, as illustrated by the following three [five!] cases:
CBP officers seized $18,171 in U.S. dollars and foreign currency from a family boarding a flight to Germany Thursday.  The family reported $9,500.  Officers discovered the additional currency during an examination.  Officers released 700 Euros ($819 USD conversion) and 3,170 Shekels ($871 USD conversion) to the family for humanitarian purposes and released the family.
  • CBP officers seized $22,449 in U.S. dollars and foreign currency from a man boarding a flight to Austria Wednesday.  The man reported 15,000 Euros.  Officers discovered an additional $4,957 in U.S. dollars on the man’s body and in a carry-on bag. Officers released 500 Euros to the man for humanitarian purposes and released him.
  • CBP officers seized $15,650 in U.S. dollars from a woman boarding a flight to Austria Tuesday.  The woman reported $9,000.  Officers discovered additional currency within a purse and a carry-on bag.  Officers released $650 to the woman for humanitarian purposes and released her.
  • CBP officers seized $13,164 in U.S. dollars from two women boarding a flight to United Arab Emirates Sunday.  The women reported $9,500.  Officers discovered additional currency in a purse and a carry-on bag.  Officers released $964 to the women for humanitarian purposes and released the women.
  • CBP officers seized $22,385 in U.S. dollars from a family boarding a flight to Ghana June 19.  The family – husband, wife and wife’s sister – reported $5,000 and $7,000.  Officers discovered additional currency in envelopes on all three persons that the man claimed to be his.  Officers released $385 to the family for humanitarian purposes and released the family.

In each case, CBP officers read the federal reporting requirements to the travelers and solicited their understanding of the law.  Officers afforded the travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report all currency they possessed, verbally and by writing their currency declaration on the form describing currency reporting laws.

Travelers in these cases were either citizens of the U.S., Jordan, Pakistan, or Ghana.  None was arrested.

Reporting $9,500 to CBP when you’re leaving is no different from asking, “Can you please search me to find out how much more cash I have that I’m not telling you about?” In this story, that happened in three of the five cases.

Has Dulles CBP seized your cash?

If Dulles CBP seized your cash, you should contact our customs lawyer for a free cash seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

President Trump signs proclamation imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum

Exclusion requests for Sec 232 and 301 tariffs

New Tariffs: Steel, Aluminum, China

President Trump has announced new tariffs this year imposed on imports from various countries under two bases; first, he imposed a 25% steel tariff and 10% aluminum tariff under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. This section allows the President to impose tariffs for national security reasons (the full reports and reasoning are available here).

Second, President Trump announced a 25% tariff against imports from China under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (full announcement here) covering $34 billion worth of goods. The Chinese tariffs are designed to punish, or at least counter-act, unfair trade practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation by China. Subsequently, President Trump expanded section 301 tarriffs to include another $216 billion worth of goods.

To date, $50 billion worth of goods has been finalized, with the remaining $200 billion to be dealt with by the end of the week (September 7, 2018).

The USTR has published a helpful summary of the status of all Section 301 tariffs, and their current status HERE.

To date, the fact that these tariffs might only end-up hurting domestic industries is getting a lot of attention (there is a lot of tariff activity). There seems to be little awareness or recognition — both amongst importers and the news community as a whole — that there is very large loophole in both new tariffs: exclusions.

Exclusion Requests

The section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum permit importers to request exclusions from certain products, on certain grounds. Initially, the official announcements and proclamations seemed to only permit exclusion requests on national security grounds, however, once the exclusion request form (steel) was published it seemed to permit exclusion requests to be filed for basically any reason (including insufficient U.S. availability, No U.S. Production, and “Other”).

The section 301 tariffs for the first set of products (the $34 billion action) permit importers to request an exclusion which are due by October 9. As of now, exclusions for the $16 billion action will be available, but the procedure has not yet been announced.

Currently, no exclusion requests for the 232 or 301 tariffs have been granted (despite some indications from the Bureau of Industry and Security that some were granted for some of our clients).

Importers may be in a panic about the new tariffs; they should not. They should calmly consider requesting exclusions for the products so that the new tariffs will not apply to them, and they will not be required to pay the extra duties. Although the exclusion process can be done by anyone, as always, hiring an experienced attorney to advocate for the exclusion of the particular products will help to ensure the best result possible.

Want to discuss a possible section 232 or 301 exclusion?

If you’re interested in applying for an exclusion for section 232 or 301 tariffs, you can give us a call or complete the contact form below.

I acknowledge and agree that no attorney-client relationship is created, intended, or implied by the sending of this message. I understand Great Lakes Customs Law reserves the right to decline representation and if it does accept representation, I will be required to sign a written fee agreement.

An image of a traveler's with $10,000 sewn into his pants which was seized by uscbU.S. Customs & Border Protection

Boston Logan Airport Cash Seizure Video

A few weeks back, NECN (an NBC affiliate) published an article and took some video footage at Boston Logan Airport about customs cash seizures at the airport, and by extension, through the country as a whole. The story was apparently initiated after news about there being over $2 million dollars in 2017 seized all across ports in New England.

I think it is probably also some public relations clean-up after maybe a little bad press after the story broke about the Nigerian woman who had her currency unlawfully withheld at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas.

I encourage all my many readers to click this link and watch the video, which follows a uniformed CBP officer through Boston Logan International Airport as he intercepts, questions travelers, and counts money. The CBP officer shares some interesting information and insights on the whole cash seizure process, including considerations they undertake when deciding whether to seize someone’s cash.

CBP's Hold Harmless and Release Agreement Form

Class Action and CBP’s Hold Harmless and Release Agreement

An interesting cash seizure issue has been percolating across the Internet that arises from the class action (lawsuit) filed by a Texas nurse who is originally from Nigeria, though now a U.S. Citizen. As I understand it (after briefly skimming the complaint), she attempted to leave the country with around $40,000. She did not report the money to CBP as required, and so the money was seized for a failure to report.

What happened after her cash was seized?

Upon receiving the notice of seizure, instead of filing a petition she filed a claim. This is generally not the best way to get money back. When a claim is filed, you request the government to start judicial forfeiture proceedings, rather than administrative. I am greatly simplifying the process but, basically, when a claim is filed a judge will hear the case and eventually, some day, theoretically, you will have a trial by judge or jury about whether or not you can get seized money back. If a petition is filed, you instead are asking CBP to decide the matter internally without putting it before a judge.

Did the government file a complaint for forfeiture?

In this case, because she filed a claim the U.S. attorney had the discretion to decide whether or not they would pursue judicial forfeiture, or not. As luck would have it, the U.S. attorney declined by not filing a complaint for forfeiture. The way the plaintiff’s attorneys read the law (which so far, I agree with), this means CBP must return the money, immediately. Instead of doing that, CBP asked her to sign a hold harmless and release agreement that gave up her right to sue the government for seizure, and anything incidental (interest, emotional distress, etc.).

She refused to sign the hold harmless and release agreement, and CBP refused to return the money. Now she is suing the government for a whole host of things, including for a return of the cash. I don’t blame her for standing on principle; but she must not need the money terribly bad to tie this up in the courts.

What will the effect of this case be?

This case is very interesting, and raises a number of questions; first and foremost is, why did the U.S. attorney’s office not file a complaint for forfeiture once the claim was filed? I think they did not realize that once a claim is filed and a complaint for forfeiture is not filed timely, the property must be returned. In other words, someone at the U.S. attorney’s office did not realize the full consequences of what they were doing and probably believed that administrative forfeiture proceedings may still go forward.

Secondly, perhaps there were staffing issues (i.e., not enough personnel) that prevented the U.S. attorney’s office from wanting to handle judicial forfeiture proceedings, so they put it off.

In my experience, cash seizures at George Bush Intercontinental Airport are pretty infrequent compared with other ports. There might not be a lot of push to process these cases, especially so in Texas. With drugs and other contraband pouring across the border, why spend time seizing money likely to be from legitimate sources? They have better places to direct their resources then pretty obviously legitimately derived money.

What does this mean for people who have their cash seized?

This case, no matter the outcome, probably has little meaning for people who have had their cash seized. First, anytime a client of mine has filed a claim seeking judicial forfeiture, the U.S. attorney’s office has fought the forfeiture, usually tooth-and-nail. I have no reason to believe that this will result in less cash seizures nationally. I also do not believe this reflects a desire by the government to avoid judicial forfeiture if a claim is filed. I think this is probably a very unique case. Therefore, I see no reason to start filing claims instead of petitions in the hopes of getting back the money without a fight, and without proof of its source and use.

If this plaintiff wins her case, this will only mean that if a claim is filed and a case is not started by the government, you get the money back without having to sign a hold harmless and release agreement. I believe that this type of situation has very, very infrequently happened, and so the class number of people involved, although not insignificant, will be small.

Can she still be charged criminally for a failure to report cash?

Yes, this woman can still be charged criminally for a failure to report cash — she remains in that legal jeopardy. The failure to report transporting more than $10,000 in cash into or from the country is a criminal offense, and the government has 5 years from the date of seizure to charge her with this crime.

It does not matter that the money was legitimately derived or intended for legitimate uses, she still committed the crime of not reporting the cash; seizure is only one potential penalty, the others are arrest, fine, and imprisonment.

I suspect that the government is now weighing heavily the option of criminally charging the woman. I hope her attorney’s explained this risk to her. Maybe some things are worth waiting 5 years for.

In any event, I will be keeping a watchful on this case as it develops. Stay tuned for updates.