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.

$1 million dollars stacked on table seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection

CBP Seizes $1 Million in Cash at Laredo

The government shut-down prevented CBP from releasing news stories about the cash seizure and customs enforcement activity. Now that the shutdown is over (for now), we have a new story from CBP in Laredo.

In this case, as so often is the case in the cash seizures that occur along the U.S.-Mexico border, this story has the feel of the movement of cash in facilitation of the illegal drug trade.

Isn’t there something suspicious about a 20 year-old woman driving a 9 year old car that has 53 bundles of cash in it? Yes, absolutely; it’s improbably. In this case, officers had more to go on than just their own suspicions, because the money was not reported.

Not only was there a failure to report cash to Customs, but the money was likely smuggled (i.e., hidden) because the story implies that to find the cash officers had to use a imaging system scan and an intensive examination (this usually means they ripped off body panels and parts of the vehicle to locate the cash).

LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers Juarez-Lincoln Bridge recently seized nearly $1 million in unreported currency hidden within a passenger vehicle during an outbound examination.

The seizure occurred on Friday, Jan. 25 at Juarez-Lincoln Bridge when a CBP officer conducting outbound examinations selected a 2010 Nissan Maxima driven by a 20-year-old female U.S. citizen for examination. After initial inspection utilizing a non-intrusive imaging systems scan, CBP officers conducted an intensive physical examination and discovered 53 bundles containing a total of $988,550 in unreported currency hidden within the vehicle. 

CBP officers seized the currency and arrested the driver.  The case was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents for further investigation.

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CBP officer revealing $27,500 concealed in a traveler's backpack, seized for bulk cash smuggling and not reporting

$57,000 in Cash Seized from Beninese Travelers

Recently, CBP seized a large amount of money arriving into the United States because it was not reported. The seizure occurred when CBP stopped a Beninese couple who had arrived in the United States from Belgium.

Upon being asked, they reported less than $10,000. Then they changed the story to $9,500 and €19,000.

Of course, that turned out not to be the whole truth.

Instead, they had more than $15,000, more than €35,000, and about $1,235 in West African Francs (an interesting monetary union, that).

The worst news for this couple is that there is a very clear presumption that the money was hidden because the money was not just in several envelopes, but within the luggage inside pant and suit pockets, and on the woman’s body.

At Dulles airport, that means it’s bulk cash smuggling. And bulk cash smuggling at Dulles airport means that if you get any money back (by proving legitimate source and intended use), you lose about half of it as a penalty.

Here is the full story from CBP Dulles:

STERLING, Virginia — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized nearly $57,000 in unreported currency from a Benin couple Thursday at Washington Dulles International Airport.

The couple, who arrived on a flight from Belgium, initially told CBP officers that they possessed less than $10,000. After officers advised them of U.S. currency reporting laws, the couple reported verbally and in writing that they possessed $9,500 and 19,000 euros.

During an examination, CBP officers discovered $15,765 in U.S. dollars, 36,095 euros and 722,000 West African francs for a combined equivalent of $56,985 in U.S. dollars.  Officers discovered the currency in several envelopes, inside pants and suit pockets within their luggage, and during a patdown of the female traveler.

It is 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.

“Customs and Border Protection officers know that concealed bulk currency is oftentimes proceeds from alleged illicit activity and is used to fund transnational criminal organizations,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Field Operations Director in Baltimore. “This currency seizure reflects CBP’s continuing commitment to enforce all U.S. laws, including federal currency reporting laws, at our nation’s international ports of entry.”

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 officers seized the currency. Officers then returned the 722,000 West African francs, equivalent to about $1,240, to the couple for humanitarian relief, and released the couple to continue their visit.

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/dulles-cbp-seizes-nearly-57k-unreported-currency-benin-travelers
Summary of CBP currency seizure enforcement activity for FY 2018

CBP Cash Seizure 2018 Statistics

In what will very likely be our final blog post of 2018, let’s close the year out by looking at some of CBP’s recently released enforcement statistics for cash seizures across the country. CBP does this each year; but these aren’t yet the final numbers, they exclude the last month of CBP’s fiscal year (September).

Each year, I’m stuck with figuring out how the amount of cash seizures in the last fiscal year stack up against prior years (CBP’s fiscal year begins on October 1).

This year, CBP has done the math for me and showed that the amount of cash seizures through August 31, 2018, was $59.8 million. That is slightly lower than FY 2017 ($65 million). The biggest year for cash seizures by CBP was $81.2 million in FY 2014.

Interestingly, they’re counting border patrol seizures as separate from CBP Office of Field Operations. See the chart below for additional details:

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/cbp-enforcement-statistics

Stacks of Cash at Dulles Airport Seized by Customs for Violating the Currency Reporting Requirements

Dulles Currency Seizure to Ghana

This week, CBP officers at Dulles reported a couple instances of drug seizures at Dulles airport, along with a pretty big cash seizure from a man who was going to Ghana.

The man was stopped by CBP on his way out of the United States, and he was asked to report the amount of currency he had. Verbally, and in writing, he reported carrying $6,500; however, he was actually transporting $67,127.

That’s bad news for him. As I always mention, Dulles is pretty tough on people who carry cash and refuse to report actual amount when asked. At many CBP ports, this man would only end up with a violation of 31 USC 5316 for failure to report the cash; however, I’m nearly certain that at Dulles airport he’s going to end up with a violation of 31 USC 5316 and 5332 for bulk cash smuggling.

This will likely mean that even if he proves the money came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use, he will face a steep penalty of at least 50% of the amount seized, leaving him with only $33,500.

Here’s the story:


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers enjoyed a bountiful enforcement weekend with the seizure of 353 pounds of khat, 112 pounds of Tetracaine Hydrochloride, and more than $67,000 in unreported currency at Washington Dulles International Airport.


Additionally, CBP officers seized $67,127 from a U.S. citizen bound for Ghana Friday. The man reported verbally and in writing that he possessed $6,500. Officers discovered the currency inside his carry-on bag and concealed within clothing in his checked baggage.


Officers returned $1,127 to the man as humanitarian relief and released him to continue his journey.

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/khat-currency-and-cocaine-cutting-agent-seizures-highlight-busy-weekend

STERLING, Virginia –

CBP officer revealing $27,500 concealed in a traveler's backpack, seized for bulk cash smuggling and not reporting

Dulles CBP Seizes $53k in Cash

Dulles does it again, seizing $53,000 from two different people at the time they left the United States.  

In one incident, when stopped before leaving on a plane from the United States to Cameroon, a man reported having $26,000, but was found to have $36,668. 

In the other incident, a man and his family were leaving for Sudan. They reported having $11,000, but in fact, they had $16,500.

In the first instance, the presence of “six envelopes” tells me that this man was probably carrying money back to Cameroon for other people, probably to help family members suffering Cameroon’s civil war.  If that was the case, there’s probably a good chance he wasn’t told exactly how much was in the envelopes, leading to his under-report of the money.

In the second instance, the fact that the family was traveling together tells me that — as almost always happens in my client’s cash seizure cases — someone did not count all their money, or did not consider some part of money to be required to be reported (i.e., an adult daughter traveling with a few extra thousand dollars of her own, not thinking she needed to report her money as part of the group because she’s an adult). These situations can be messy; sometimes money should be reported, sometimes not; it ends up being the word of the violator against the word of the CBP officer who seized the cash.

In each case, though, once someone is boarding the plane and has not already voluntary made the report to CBP, a violation of the reporting requirements of 31 USC 5316 have already occurred. So whether the report was accurate or not is technically not important: by having to be prompted to report currency by a CBP officer while boarding a plane, you are as good as caught, because you obviously have the intention to not report the money in the small physical space between the ticket counter and the gangway.

Here’s the full story:

STERLING, Virginia — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized nearly $53,000 during two outbound currency examinations Thursday at Washington Dulles International Airport.

CBP is not releasing the travelers’ names because none were criminally charged.

While inspecting passengers boarding a flight to Belgium, CBP officers seized $35,688 from a Cameroon man who reported that he possessed $26,000. Officers discovered a combined $27,500 in six envelopes in a backpack, and an additional $7,500 in the man’s carry-on bag. Officers retained $34,000 and released $1,688 to the man for humanitarian purpose.  

While inspecting passengers boarding a later flight to Turkey, CBP officers seized $17,122 from a U.S. family bound for Sudan. The family reported that they possessed $11,000. Officers retained $16,500 and released $621 to the family for humanitarian purpose.

In both cases, the passengers were released to continue their travel.

Travelers may carry as much currency as they wish into and out of the United States.  Federal law requires that travelers must report all U.S. and foreign monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or greater on a U.S. Treasury Department financial form.  None of the currency is taxed.

“Customs and Border Protection encourages travelers to be completely honest when reporting all their currency during an inspection with a CBP officer, or they may incur civil or criminal penalties,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Field Operations Director in Baltimore.  “CBP officers conduct outbound examinations to safeguard the revenue of the U.S., and to intercept potentially illicit proceeds that support transnational criminal organizations.”

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/dulles-cbp-seizes-53k-unreported-currency-two-departing-sets-travelers

Undeclared and smuggled currency sewn into the lining of under was seized by U.S. Customs at Boston Logan Airport

CBP Seizes Cash Hid in Underwear in Boston

After handling nearly 300 incidents of cash seizures by U.S. Customs & Border Protection, very little surprises me. So, it comes as no surprise to me at Boston Logan Airport, CBP discovered almost $5,000 sewn into the lining of a woman’s underwear.

The $5,000 they found in her underwear was part of a larger amount being transported; almost $27,000 in all. The story says law the cash was seized for a failure to report, but this is also a textbook case of bulk cash smuggling.

Likewise, the story does not say if either of the couple was criminally charged. Criminal charges for bulk cash smuggling, and failure to report cash to CBP, is possible. Here’s the full story:

BOSTON. — On November 8, 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers at Logan International Airport discovered $4,900 in undeclared currency sewn inside an Indonesian national’s underwear.

The female passenger arrived with her 63 year-old husband on a flight from Doha, Qatar. During a secondary examination the couple was asked to declare any currency and stated they had approximately $12,000. A patdown and search of possessions by CBP Officers discovered $4,900 sewn into the 63 year-old female passenger’s underwear. The search also uncovered more than $20,000 in US currency and $2,000 in Canadian currency in the couple’s possession.  In total, CBP seized nearly $27,000 in undeclared currency from the two travelers.

“This situation is a reminder that passenger’s should be forthcoming with our Officers,” said Area Port Director Linda K. Brown.  “CBP Officers are highly skilled individuals and are committed to enforcing the laws of the United States at all our ports of entry.”

The undeclared currency was seized pursuant to Title 31, U.S. Code, Section 5317 for violation of Title 31, U.S. Code, Section 5316, failing to declare over $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments.

A few months back we posted a video showing some more real-life customs cash seizures at Boston Logan Airport. Go check it out.

Have you had cash seized at Boston Logan airport?

If you’ve had cash seized at Boston Logan airport, you can learn more from our trusted legal guide to a customs money seizure and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.