Counterfeit Goods Seized by CBP Detroit

CBP Seizure for Online Counterfeit Purchases FAQ

CBP will detain, seize, and forfeit counterfeit goods that were purchased online and shipped to the United States. CBP sometimes will also issue a penalty for counterfeit seizures. We get way too many calls on this topic, and so we are publishing some frequently asked questions on the topic in the hope that it is useful. The law that prohibits importing counterfeit goods into the United States is 19 USC 1526. You can read details about the law here: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1

1. Customs detained or seized my internet purchase. I think the goods are fake (not genuine, counterfeit, etc). What happens next?

If Customs seizes your items, you should receive a notice of seizure in the mail. The notice of seizure will explain what your options are. You will have 30 days to file a petition or 35 days to make an offer in compromise.

2. Am I going to jail?

Although the importation of counterfeits is a crime, criminal prosecution for innocent internet purchases is very unlikely. The more products you import, the greater the value, the greater intent you have to sell or redistribute the goods (or the greater intent CBP can infer from your purchase and/or past activity), the more likely it would be that you would be criminally prosecuted. In other words, it would be extremely rare for you to get criminally charged if you are not trafficking in counterfeit goods.

3. Am I going to get a penalty?

Possibly. CBP guideline’s state that all counterfeit imports should be penalized, but in fact, that is not what happens. It can be hard to predict who will receive a penalty. Generally, the chance for a penalty increases for:

  • Commercial purchases
  • High quantity purchases (i.e., CBP could infer from the order that it was meant for re-sale)
  • High value purchases
  • Repeat violations

The above are just a few circumstances where we have seen counterfeit penalties issued, but there are cases where penalties are issued for reasons other than the above. Sometimes it can just come down to the decision of a Customs official to refer the matter for a penalty, and other times sometimes some ports are more aggressive than others about issuing penalties (ahem, Port of Mobile).

4. How will I know if I will get a penalty?

You will not know until you get it. A penalty comes in the mail, usually first class mail (i.e., not certified or registered mail), so it’s arrival is unassuming.

5. What should I do if I get a penalty?

If you get a penalty, you should file a petition for mitigation of penalty. You generally have 60 days from the date of the penalty notice to file the petition, asking that the amount be reduced. You should have a lawyer do this.

6. How long does it take for CBP to issue a penalty for counterfeits?

It could be weeks, months, or even years after the seizure before you receive a penalty. A penalty will come in the mail, typically only first class mail (not certified). CBP has 5 years to issue a penalty. However, the more time that passes after the 6 month anniversary of receipt of the notice of seizure, your the likelihood of receiving a penalty goes down.

7. Should I respond to the notice of seizure? Should I abandon the property?

If the goods are truly counterfeit, you will not get them back without consent of the trademark holder, or some miracle. There are probably pros and cons to either choosing to abandon the property (affirmning that you are interested in the goods and that you want them to be forfeited) and just ignoring the letter. Whatever you choose, it’s wise to save the letter.

8. I think my goods are genuine. What should I do?

If you believe your goods are genuine, you should probably request samples, have the product or samples analyzed, and either file a petition or a claim. You should consult with a lawyer.

9. I don’t want the goods, but I also want to take steps to make sure I don’t get a penalty. What should I do?

There is no easy answer to this question. The violation has already happened, and there may be little you can do to avoid a penalty now. You may think that by not responding at all that the chance of receiving a penalty will decrease. You may think that by responding and forcefully denying you had any intention to import counterfeit goods the chance of receiving a penalty will decrease.

To both hypotheticals above, the answer is: maybe.

There are pros and cons, risks and benefits, to both potential courses of action. But it’s difficult to predict which will help you avoid a penalty, and which will cause the penalty to be issued. Please refer back to #3 and #4, above.

10. I received a threatening letter from the trademark holder. What should I do?

First, understand what they’re asking you to do in the letter. Then, weigh the risk of responding, vs. not responding (see #8 above, as the same considerations apply). By responding, you may be admitting guilt and making a case against you far easier. However, by not responding, you may be losing a valuable opportunity to avoid further actions against you, such as litigation.

You should also know that the law requires CBP to notify the trademark holder that they seized merchandise the bears counterfeit marks on it. These trademark holders will often (as in the case of Apple, Bluetooth, Samsung, Louis Vuitton, etc) have a law firm send out letters whenever their is a seizure, no matter the value, as a means of protecting their brand and scaring you to not import counterfeit goods, and gain intelligence on who is producing them and how they are getting into the United States, so they can try to put a stop to it.

11. Will I get arrested? Are they going to seize my bank account? Is that person knocking at my door right now the police?

Just calm down. As explained in #2 above, most people won’t get arrested. Bank accounts don’t get seized until you’ve got a judgment against you (i.e., after arrest, conviction, and trial). The person knocking at your door probably is not the police (but in case it is, assert your constitutional right to silence!)

12. What’s the worse that can happen?

The worse is not likely, at least for most situations. The worst that could happen would be that the merchandise gets forfeited, get sued by the trademark holder, you get fined by CBP, criminally charged and thrown in jail, your spouse leaves you, and your children pretend you don’t exist. But as explained above, the worse probably will not happen.

13. Should I call you and discuss my case?

Probably not, especially if your purchase is less than $1,000 and you have not received a penalty. You should calm down and read the answers to the above questions. If you are interested in a consultation, we charge for any advice that is beyond the advice that is given here. Reach out to us if you would like a quote to provide you with advice, or filing a petition, or if you receive a penalty.

CBP Texas seizes $297K Cash at Del Rio

Recently, customs discovered a huge cache of cash when inspecting a vehicle heading into Mexico. The story, which comes to us out of Del Rio Texas, part of the Laredo sector, is detailed below.

The headline of the news release styles this as being “unreported” currency, however what this really is (in addition to being unreported) is bulk cash smuggling. As that link explains, bulk cash smuggling occurs when money is hidden with the purpose of evading the reporting requirement that requires an individual entering or leaving the country with more than $10,000 to file a report.

 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) officers working outbound operations seized over $297,000 in undeclared currency in a single enforcement action.

“CBP conducts outbound enforcement operations 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 Port Director Liliana Flores, Del Rio Port of Entry. “This currency seizure demonstrates an outstanding job by our officers.”

The enforcement action occurred on Wednesday, May 5 at the Del Rio International Bridge, when officers assigned to outbound operations selected a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze traveling to Mexico for a secondary examination. Upon physical inspection of the vehicle, packages containing $297,311 in unreported U.S. currency were discovered.

The currency was seized by CBP OFO officers. A 23-year-old male Mexican citizen passenger was arrested, and the case was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S., however, if the quantity is more than $10,000, they will need to report it to CBP. “Money” means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign coins currently in circulation, currency, travelers’ checks in any form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

Has Del Rio CBP seized your cash?

If Del Rio CBP has seized your cash, we urge you to call us for a consultation before considering doing it yourself. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

$201,585 in Unreported Currency Seized by CBP at Roma stacked in piles

CBP Officers Seize $201,585 in Unreported Currency at the Roma Port of Entry

I’ll give all my readers some free advice: if you have an extra $200,000 lying around, spend it inside the country — don’t take it across the border.

Why?

In today’s presentation of a CBP news release involving the misadventures of smugglers attempting to move cash across the border, we learn about a $201,585 which was seized in November 2020 as it was heading out to Mexico. Here’s the full story:

ROMA, Texas —U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Roma Port of Entry recently seized more than $200,000 in unreported currency concealed in a vehicle during an outbound examination.

“Our CBP officers are dedicated to stopping the movement of illegal contraband and unreported currency from coming in and out of ports of entry. Even in challenging times, it is clear that our officers are truly dedicated in carrying out their mission. Their hard work and expertise never goes unnoticed,” said Port Director Andres Guerra, Roma Port of Entry.

The seizure occurred on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 when CBP officers referred a 2013 Chevrolet 1500 for a secondary inspection.  With the utilization of a non-intrusive imaging system, CBP officers discovered $201,585 concealed within the vehicle.

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

It is not a crime to carry more than $10,000, but it is a federal offense not to declare currency or monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or more to a CBP officer upon entry or exit from the U.S. or to conceal it with intent to evade reporting requirements. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest. An individual may petition for the return of currency seized by CBP officers, but the petitioner must prove that the source and intended use of the currency was legitimate.

Has Texas CBP seized your cash?

If Texas CBP seized your cash, we urge you to call us for a consultation before considering doing it yourself. You probably will not be happy with the outcome if you do, based on their’ aggressive posture in most cases. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

Bags of Money Seized by Texas CBP

CBP Texas Seizes $838,481 at Roma Texas

CBP officers in Texas prevented the attempted export of NEARLY ONE MILLION dollars in cash to Mexico, late last year. The money was driven in a vehicle by a U.S. citizen, and the money was concealed in the car. The story does not state that the driver was arrested, although it would be difficult to believe he was not.

ROMA, Texas —U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers Roma Port of Entry recently seized more than $838,000 in unreported currency concealed in a vehicle during an outbound examination.

The seizure occurred on Wednesday, October 7, 2020 when CBP officers referred a 2016 Chevrolet Colorado occupied by a male U.S. citizen for a secondary inspection.  With the utilization of a non-intrusive imaging system, CBP officers discovered $838,481 concealed within the vehicle.

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

Has Texas CBP seized your money?

Has Texas CBP seized your money? If so, we can help. Read our helpful customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

$44000 Seized by Dulles CBP on Display

Dulles CBP Seizes $44,000 from Ethiopia Traveler

CBP officers at Dulles Airport their Washington DC, which happens to be part of the wider Baltimore Field office, seized almost $44,000 from a permanent resident and citizen of Cameroon who was traveling to Ethiopia.

As often happens, he was prompted to complete a currency reporting form after indicating that he possessed money. But, he only reported $10,000. Upon obtaining the false report, customs officers inspected his possessions and discovered that he actually possessed $43,000.

Here is the full story as contained in the news release:

STERLING, Va. –U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Washington Dulles International Airport seized nearly $44,000 in unreported currency from an Ethiopia-bound traveler on Monday.

CBP officers inspected a traveler as he attempted to board his departing flight. The man, a Cameroon citizen and U.S. lawful permanent resident, reported that he possessed $10,000 and completed a financial reporting form. While examining the man’s carryon bag, CBP officers discovered $43,580. Officers seized $43,000 and returned $580 to the man as humanitarian relief. Officer released him to continue his travel.

Customs and Border Protection officers seized nearly $44,000 in unreported currency from an Ethiopia-bound traveler at Washington Dulles International Airport on October 5, 2020.

CBP is not releasing the man’s name since he was not criminally charged. An investigation continues.

My usual disclaimer about the difficulty of getting money back after a seizure at CBP Dulles applies. Anyone who has money seized at Dulles Airport can expect a long and arduous process which will include scrupulously documenting the source of the money, including the production of detailed financial records, explanations of particular deposits into one’s bank account, and of course, scrupulous documentation translated into English about the intended use of the money.

Has Dulles CBP seized your cash?

If Dulles CBP has seized your cash, we urge you to call us for a consultation before considering doing it yourself. You probably will not be happy with the outcome if you do, based on Dulles’ aggressive posture in most cases. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

Cash seized by Brownsville CBP displayed to reporters

CBP Texas Seizes $46,085 in Smuggled Cash at Brownsville

CBP officers in Texas are the frontline of the United States in its war against illicit trafficking of narcotics and the proceeds of the sale of narcotics. For this reason, the are skeptical of people who were traveling across the border with large amounts of cash, especially when it is hidden and not reported before discovery.

In a story that comes out of Brownsville Texas, last fall, CBP officers encountered a twenty-year-old Mexican citizen departing the United States from Mexico. As part of the outbound inspection, officers discovered a total of $46,085 hidden inside the vehicle.

This is a classic case of bulk cash smuggling. Bulk cash smuggling occurs whenever anyone with the intent to not report the money to U.S. Customs upon importer export, hides it in some way with the intention that it not be discovered or reported.

Here’s the full story:

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge Port of Entry seized $46,085 in bulk, unreported U.S. currency.

“CBP officers may conduct inspections before travelers leave the United States. This routine inspection led to this seizure and is a testament to the diligence and sense of duty our officers have when carrying out outbound inspections,” said Port Director Tater Ortiz, Brownsville Port of Entry.

The seizure took place on Thursday, Oct. 1, when CBP officers working at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge encountered a 20-year-old male Mexican citizen from McAllen, Texas, as the driver of a gray 2012 Ford F-150, who was selected for an outbound inspection. CBP officers conducted a visual and physical search of the vehicle which resulted in the discovery of bulk undeclared U.S. currency totaling $46,085 hidden within the vehicle.

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

The penalties for bulk cash smuggling are steep, even if the money is shown to be from a legitimate source and have a legitimate intended use. Moreover, the likelihood of criminal charges arising from the bulk cash smuggling at the Mexico border are greater than for a simple failure to report.

Has Brownsville CBP taken your cash?

If Brownsville CBP has taken your cash, please call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

An image of $3M in crisp bills stacked high in a cube in bundles

CBP San Diego Seized Unreported Smuggled Cash

CBP in San Diego has quite a few ports, including Calexico, Otay Mesa, Cross Border Xpress, San Ysidro, and Tecate. CBP seizes cash from travelers heading into and out of Mexico from the United States at each of them. A lot of the cash seized there is for innocent reasons, such as workers moving across the border with their savings, people traveling to invest in property in Mexico, medical procedures, etc. Many of these cash seizures by customs are for a simple failure to report.

Back in September, one of these money seizures made it into the CBP news release cycle, and I’m just now getting to posting about it here. In this particular story, a vehicle was heading to Mexico at Otay Mesa , when officers discovered currency hidden (probably bulk cash smuggling!) In a backpack wrapped in a black shirt. Here’s the full story:

SAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized more than $90,000 in currency at the ports of entry along the California borders with Mexico, encompassing Andrade, Calexico, Otay Mesa, Cross Border Xpress, San Ysidro and Tecate.

From Sept. 21 to Sept. 27, CBP officers with the help of CBP K-9 teams intercepted numerous currency smuggling attempts heading south of the border into Mexico. CBP officers identified specific vehicles for inspection resulting in the discovery of unreported currency that was being smuggled out of the country.

“I can honestly say that teamwork played a big role after seeing the successful rate of interceptions,” said Anne Maricich, Director of Field Operations for CBP in San Diego. “Their enforcement efforts and experience are put to the test regularly and the results are phenomenal when the focus is to protect this country.”

One of the most significant seizures during this past week occurred Friday when CBP officers stopped a vehicle at Otay Mesa headed into Mexico.  CBP officers targeted a 2016 Cadillac CTS with two occupants. While searching the vehicle, officers discovered almost $51,000 of unreported currency hidden inside a baby backpack wrapped in a black shirt, located on floor of the front passenger side.  CBP officer seized the currency.

Has San Diego CBP seized your cash?

If San Diego CBP seized your cash at Otay Mesa, Calexico, or elsewhere, we urge you to call us for a consultation before considering doing it yourself. You probably will not be happy with the outcome if you do, based on their’ aggressive posture in most cases. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

Texas CBP Seized $100,000 in Smuggled Cash

A few months back, CBP in Texas seized $100,000 in bulk cash that was taped a a pedestrian’s body as he was leaving the United States for Mexico. Here’s what that looks like:

I did not catch this story as a news release from CBP, but it was a story that ran in the local paper (read it here). Here’s the story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized $101,924 strapped to a 19-year-old man heading to Mexico on the Zaragoza Bridge in El Paso’s Lower Valley.

CBP officials said the cash smuggling attempt was detected Tuesday afternoon by officers checking Mexico-bound traffic who picked the man for an inspection.

The money was in $100, $50 and $20 bills inside plastic bags strapped to the young man’s chest and back underneath his shirt, CBP said. The cash was seized and an investigation continues.

Under federal law, travelers can carry any amount of money but must report amounts over $10,000 to CBP at the time of departure or arrival, officials said.

Bulk shipments of cash smuggled into Mexico are often drug-trafficking proceeds, law enforcement officers have said.

“CBP officers are working hard to stop the illegal movement of guns, ammunition and unreported currency,” CBP Ysleta Port Director Arnie Gomez said in a statement. “Travelers who do not follow federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of losing their currency and may potentially face criminal charges.”

Has Texas CBP seized your cash?

If Texas CBP seized your cash, we urge you to call us for a consultation before considering doing it yourself. You probably will not be happy with the outcome if you do, based on their’ aggressive posture in most cases. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

CBP canine Cato sits next to table full of seized money.

Dulles CBP seized cash again; when is a violation of 31 USC 5316 complete?

Here’s a story about a man who had $43,409 in cash seized by customs at Dulles Airport. I’m going to use the story, which follows, to illustrate appoint about when a violation of the reporting requirement occurs.

The Dulles CBP officers seized cash as the man went to board a plane to Brussels. At this point, the violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5316 occurred. The man was getting on the plane without any intent to make a report of cash; he had to be asked. Even if he truthfully responded that he had exactly $43,409, the violation would already be completed his money could still be seized because he obviously had no intention to do what the law required; make a physical report of the cash at the time of departure.

Here’s the full news release:

STERLING, Va. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized more than $43,000 from a Belgium-bound man on Sunday at Washington Dulles International Airport.

CBP currency detector dog Cato alerted to the man as he prepared to board his flight to Brussels. The man verbally reported to CBP officers that he possessed $15,000, then admitted to possessing $37,000 as officers prepared to examine his baggage. The man completed a FINCEN105 reporting $37,000. During that baggage exam, officers discovered a combined $43,409 in U.S. currency. Officers seized the currency and released the man.

CBP is not releasing the man’s name because he was not criminally charged.

CBP canines are highly skilled at a variety of detection specialties, such as narcotics, firearms, humans, agriculture, and currency.

“Customs and Border Protection’s canines are a vital component to our border security mission and demonstrate their exceptional skill every day to help enforce our nation’s laws and keep us safe,” said Keith Fleming, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office.

Although there is no limit to the amount of money that travelers may carry when crossing U.S. borders, federal law [31 U.S.C. 5316] requires that travelers report currency or monetary instruments in excess of $10,000 to a CBP officer at the airport, seaport, or land border crossing when entering or leaving the United States. Read more about currency reporting requirements.

During inspections, CBP officers ensure that travelers fully understand federal currency reporting requirements and offer travelers multiple opportunities to accurately report all currency and monetary instruments they possess before examining a traveler’s carryon or checked baggage.

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 seized about $386,000 every day in unreported or illicit currency along our nation’s borders last year. Learn more about what CBP accomplished during “A Typical Day” in 2020.

An individual may petition for the return of seized currency, but the petitioner must prove that the source and intended use of the currency was legitimate.

Has Dulles CBP seized your cash?

If Dulles CBP has seized your cash, we urge you to call us for a consultation before considering doing it yourself. You probably will not be happy with the outcome if you do, based on Dulles’ aggressive posture in most cases. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

$140k in Cash Bundles seized by CBP Laredo

CBP Laredo Seizes $140K Cash

CBP officers in Laredo discovered and seized $140,000 cash hidden in the suitcase of a 26 year-old Mexican national who was leaving the United States for Mexico. In this case (unlike most of my cash seizure clients), the individual was arrested.

Although every failure to report cash is itself a criminal offense, it is very rare overall that someone is arrested and criminally charged for a failure to report. In my estimation, if suspects you are up to some criminal activity beyond the failure to report or smuggle cash (i.e., using it to buy/sell drugs), then you are far more likely to be arrested.

And again, why does every US-Mexico border story tell us what kind of vehicle was involved? Not relevant, and a little weird, but it was a 2014 Volvo bus.

Here’s the full story:

LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) officers working outbound operations seized over $140,000 in undeclared currency in a single enforcement act over the weekend.

“CBP’s national security mandate is complex, ranging from anti-terrorism to more traditional counter-drug operations,” said Acting Port Director Eugene Crawford, Laredo Port of Entry. “This seizure is a direct reflection of our continuous commitment to enforce federal currency reporting requirements.”

The enforcement action occurred on Saturday, February 13th, when officers assigned to outbound operations selected a 2014 Volvo bus traveling to Mexico for inspection. A 26-year-old male Mexican citizen passenger was referred for a secondary examination. Upon physical inspection of the subject’s personal belongings, packages containing $140,750 in undeclared currency were discovered.

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

Has Laredo CBP seized your money?

Has Laredo CBP seized your money? If so, we can help. Read our helpful customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.