$19,000 money seizures by Customs in Philadelphia

It’s nice to see news releases about things other than currency seizures that occur at the U.S.-Mexican border involving bulk cash smuggling. This particular one is from Philadelphia, and the original story is available here. Before we get to the meat of the story, let me point out a few things:

moneystack

First of all, note that “surrendering” is an interest choice of words; if not just poor word choice by the author, it suggests that money was turned over voluntarily rather than seized, perhaps in recognition of some wrongdoing. I have never come across anyone who just surrenders their money to customs and then is instructed to file a petition. I have had Customs allege client’s had “abandoned” the money that was seized, but why the curious choice of words in either case I do not know.

Second, the story mentions that the Indian man paid a $1,000 civil penalty. This means that the man must have been travelling with sufficient documentation to prove legitimate source and no connection to criminal activity, and further, that he had a legitimate intended use for the money — necessary elements to responding to a notice of currency seizure. In some circumstances, where the amount transported is less than $25,000 Customs can eliminate the need to file a petition for the money by mitigating the seizure on-site.

The story, with my emphasis in bold:

Philadelphia – A U.S. citizen learned the importance of being truthful on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declarations and to CBP officers after surrendering $19,000 for violating federal currency reporting requirements Sunday at Philadelphia International Airport.

During a secondary inspection, the man, who arrived from Germany, reported possessing no money upon his return to the United States. CBP officers explained the currency reporting requirements to which the man said he understood, then verbally and in writing declared no money. CBP officers then discovered $19,417 in U.S. dollars and 405 Euros. CBP officers returned $417 in U.S. dollars and the 405 Euros as humanitarian relief, advised the man as to the process to petition for the remaining currency, and released him.

[ . . . ]

“Customs and Border Protection officers offer travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report their currency, but those who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements face severe consequences, such as hefty penalties, having their currency seized, or potential criminal charges,” said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “The easiest way to keep your currency is to truthfully report it.”

CBP officers assessed a $1,000 civil penalty to a second traveler, an Indian man who arrived Saturday from Germany after officers discovered $17,750 in U.S. dollars and 14,330 in Indian Rupees in his possession. The combined currency equated to$18,007 in U.S. dollars.

International travelers who arrive or depart the United States in possession of more than $10,000 or equivalent foreign currency are required to report all currency to CBP officers and complete a Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) form.

Do not decide how to respond to a CAFRA Notice without first consulting an attorney. Any mistake or error in judgment you make can cost you dearly. The Petition process is a legal process. The petition itself is and should always be a legal document, no different than in any other legal proceeding, that contains detailed factual narrative, what led to the seizure, a review of the relevant law, regulations and Custom’s own guidelines concerning the criteria for remission. When the facts allow for it, our Petition will always include a strong argument for return of the money in full, or even when there is a valid basis for the currency seizure, a strong argument for the money to be returned upon payment of a fine in the smallest amount of money possible, rather than forfeiture of all your money.

If you have had currency seized and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information I make available on this website or call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with currency seizures around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

 

Currency smuggler tries laundering money

Pardon the clever title, but a news release from U.S. Customs & Border Protection tells the tale of a man who tried to smuggle more than $50,000 in a laundry detergent box out of the United States:

CBP officers and Border Patrol agents were conducting a southbound inspection operation at the 


PresidioCurrency Smuggler Laundering Box crossing when [ . . . ] a 2011 GMC Sierra pick-up driven by a male U.S. citizen approached the checkpoint. The driver and vehicle were selected for an intensive exam. During inspection of the vehicle and baggage the officers noticed tampering on an unopened box of detergent. Further inspection of the box revealed currency bundles wrapped in plastic bags hidden within the soap. CBP officers seized the money and vehicle. No arrests were made and the investigation continues.

“CBP officers are working hard to stop the illegal movement of guns, ammunition and unreported currency,” said David Lambrix, 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.”

As you can see from the last paragraph, it is stories like these that really give Customs a chance to get on their soap box about their mission, money laundering, and the currency reporting requirements.

If you have had your money seized by Customs, please contact our office today and speak to an attorney experienced in customs law and currency seizures by calling (734) 855-4999, or e-mail us through our contact page.

 

Baltimore Customs Seizes $16,000 in Unreported Money

Another currency seizure news release from Boston, which is reported here. As can be seen by the facts, the reason for the violation here was a misreport of the amount of currency being transported, which always includes all currency, whether U.S. or foreign, and also a concealment (i.e., smuggling) of another $6,200 wrapped in personal items.

Even though the couple was forthright in declaring $10,000 of their currency, all of the currency included the $10,000 was seized. This case is useful in presenting common issues concerning currency seizures, such as:

We have a lot more information on currency seizures that we make available on our Currency Seizure page and on this blog. Here are the facts in this case, as realted by CBP:

Baltimore — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) seized $16,000 yesterday from a Nigerian couple for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

The passengers, who arrived to BWI from London and were destined for Essex, Md., repeatedly declared possessing only $10,000 and presented two envelopes to CBP officers containing the equivalent of $10,345 in U.S. and foreign currency. CBP officers explained the currency reporting requirements and again asked the couple if they were carrying any more currency or monetary instruments to which the passengers stated they were not. While examining the passenger’s luggage, CBP officers discovered another envelope wrapped in clothing that contained $6,200 bringing the total to $16,545.

If you have had your money seized by Customs, please contact our office today and speak to an attorney experienced in customs law and currency seizures by calling (734) 855-4999, or e-mail us through our contact page.

 

San Juan CBP Seizes $43,000 in Unreported Money

CBP reports on recent current seizures in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, in part stating:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized more than $43,500 in unreported currency at the Luis Munoz Marin Airport last Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in two separate incidents.

While conducting outbound operations on a JetBlue flight destined to the Dominican Republic, a CBP K9 alerted to a passenger, who was then interviewed by CBP officers. During the interview, the passenger stated he was transporting $5,000. During his cbp_tapecarry-on inspection various bundles of currency were found hidden in different locations. A total of $21,378 in currency was found hidden, including inside his socks. The currency was seized.

Departing on the same flight, a different passenger was informed about the currency reporting procedures in his native Spanish language, and he stated that he was transporting $2,000. Examination of the passenger’s carry-on bag revealed additional bundles of U.S. currency, which were concealed inside his clothing. The passenger also failed to report around $9,000 concealed inside clothing on his checked luggage. The total amount of U.S. currency seized was $22,160.

(Emphasis added).

This is interesting because it demonstrates that the currency reporting law applies equally to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Moreover, it should be noted that the fact the the people in these cases hid the money inside articles of clothing will also give rise to additional grounds for seizure, beyond mere failure to file a report, of bulk cash smuggling by virtue of concealing it.
If you have had currency seized, please read our article about responding to a currency seizure to better inform yourself of the process. You should contact our office in order to discussion your legal matter further, the prospect of getting your money returned, potential penalties, and the types of evidence needed in order to get your money back. We can be reached at (734) 855-4999 or by the methods shown on our contact page, and are able to help get your money back no matter your location.

 

Baltimore CBP Seizes Over $11K in Unreported Money/Currency

A May15th news release from Customs & Border Protection details a recent money seizure in Baltimore. The release says that Customs officer’s seized $11,400 in unreported currency from a Ghanian man for failure to file a currency report. I will quote this one in full, and and providing my own commentary interspersed in bold below:

 

Baltimore – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) seized $11,400 Tuesday from a Ghanaian man for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

The passenger, who arrived to BWI from London and was destined for Greenbelt, Md., repeatedly declared possessing only $9,500. While examining the passenger’s luggage, CBP officers discovered $11,661 in U.S. currency, and foreign currency with a domestic value of $768.

Three things here: First, Customs policy is to return foreign currency at the time of seizure.

Second, people do not realize that because of the way the laws are written, transporting less than $10,000, if done intentionally to evade the reporting requirement, can be a structuring violation and subject your money to seizure and you to criminal charges. 

Third, if you are bringing in more than $10,000, you can still get your money seized if you file a report and are unable to demonstrate legitimate source and legitimate intended use. Bank statements, tax returns, and travel plans are some thing that can be used to avoid seizure. For example, someone who’s taking $460,000 out of the country that is drug proceeds is not going to be able to keep the money just because he or she filed a report that they were transporting more than $10,000. That is why they try to smuggle the money in and out.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers can import or export; however, federal law requires travelers to report amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

And as you can see, if Customs thinks that you are carrying more than you are telling them they can search you to find out.

CBP officers seized $11,400 and returned $261 in U.S. currency and all of the foreign currency to the passenger for humanitarian relief. CBP officers also advised the traveler how to petition for the return of his seized currency.

This is the petition process, discussed in our article on responding to a customs currency seizure. This is a petition that must be filed with Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures at the port once you have received a notice of seizure. Our office can prepare and file this document for you.

“Travelers who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of having their currency seized, and may potentially face criminal charges,” said Ricardo Scheller, CBP port director for the Port of Baltimore. “The traveler was given multiple opportunities to truthfully declare his currency. The easiest way to hold on to your money is to report it.”

As we previously discussed in a commentary, refusing to comply with the reporting requirement is not the only way to get your currency seized. But it certainly is one way.

If you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

Customs seizure of smuggled money in Arizona

A news release from Customs & Border Protection goes into some detail on a recent money seizure in Arizona. The release says that Customs officer’s seized $10,744 in unreported money/currency from a 22-year old guy with a valuable pair of shoes (see below. sometimes  I just like re-posting these new releases for the pictures they provide of smuggling attempts).

U.S. Customs andCustoms Seizure Arizona Shoe Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents conducting outbound inspections referred a 22-year-old man for further inspection. During a search of the man, officers found $10,744 in U.S. currency concealed in his shoes. The currency was seized and the man was arrested and referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Individuals arrested may be charged by complaint, the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity, which raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent unless and until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unlike the usual cases I handled where the unreported seized money is part of a civil seizure, this apparently was a criminal seizure. While any violation can give rise to criminal penalties, usually if there is no suspicion of criminal activity the assistant U.S. attorney will not press charges.

In fact, before sometimes before a person is a released after being detained for bulk cash smuggling, a failure to report currency over $10,000, or a structuring violation the seizing officer will call and explain the circumstances to the assistant U.S. attorney, who may either accept, defer, decline prosecution. Of course, if prosecution is initially declined, it would not prevent the government from changing their mind and pursuing criminal charges should they find new evidence in the future.

The risk of criminal prosecution, and the complicated process of actually getting your money through the petition process, is a good reason to give our office a call at (734) 855-4999, or e-mail us if you have had your money seized by Customs, even if you feel it was innocently done. We provide more reasons for hiring an attorney in our tutorial on the currency seizure process.

Regulated Wood Packaging Material Customs Violations

In 2007, Customs & Border Protection began enforcing requirements that regulated wood packaging material imported into the United States mandating that it meet certain requirements. Although an “old” issue, importers still run afoul of these requirements and get themselves into trouble. These requirements have the effect of limiting the risk that wood packaging material imported into the United States will introduce foreign insects into the U.S. ecosystem that could be harmful to the environment and U.S. industries, particularly the lumber industry and native tree populations in our forests.

What is wood packaging material, and what is regulated?

First, it should be noted that there is a distinction between wood packaging material and regulated  wood packaging material. Wood packaging material is just wood or wood products, excluding paper products, used in support, protecting, or carrying a commodity, including dunnage. 7 CFR 314.40-1.

Regulated wood packaging material  is defined as:

Wood packaging material other than manufactured wood materials, loose wood packaging materials, and wood pieces less than 6 mm thick in any dimension, that are used or for use with cargo to prevent damage, including, but not limited to, dunnage, crating, pallets, packing blocks, drums, cases, and skids.

7 CFR 314.40-1.

Although not really made clear in the regulations, for purposes of enforcement Customs probably considers manufactured wood materials to woods like plywood, fiber board, whiskey barrels, wine barrels, and veneer. Regulated wood packaging materials include materials like dunnage, crating, pallets, packing blocks, cases, skids, and other wood that is dry and loose (as in the case of sawdust or wood shavings) and is not less than 6mm thick (as in the case of certain shims).

What must be done to wood packaging material so that it is compliant?

The requirements can be complicated in certain situations, and there are a limited number of exemptions, especially for trade with Canada and Mexico. But generally speaking, the wood must be treated and marked. 7 CFR 319.40-3. The wood must be marked in a “in a visible location on each article, preferably on at least two opposite sides of the article, with a legible and permanent mark that indicates that the article meets” the requirements of the law. The mark looks something like shown below, but the letters and numbers will vary depending on the circumstances (i.e., origin and type of treatment).

WPM Mark
WPM Mark

The means of treatment is set out in 7 CFR 305, and consists of heat treatment or a type of fumigation through chemical treatment with methyl bromide.

What if regulated wood packaging material is untreated or unmarked?

If your wood packaging material is regulated wood packaging material, meaning that there is no exception to the treatment and marking requirements, then it is violative wood packaging materials if it is not both marked and treated. A violation can either be because the treatment was not done, because the mark is not present, or because the mark is illegible. Even if the wood is actually treated but is not stamped, it is still violative. Even if you somehow know for a fact that the wood is not infested, it is still violative.

As such, it is most likely that you will be required to immediately re-export the wood packaging material out of the country. This will be done through the issuance of an Emergency Action Notification that gives you a certain period of time to re-export your entire shipment.

After receiving a notice of the presence of a violative wood packaging material, whether verbally or through an Emergency Action Notification, it is important to move very quickly. Failure to be obey the deadline given in the Emergency Action Notification can result in additional penalties.

Is there an alternative to re-exporting my merchandise?

It is possible to get permission from the Port Director to separate the violative wood packaging material from the commodity (e.g., separate the merchandise from its pallets), and re-export only the violative wood packaging material and enter the commodity. However, that is a complicated process with its own legal procedures, involving meeting certain requirements, demonstrating certain safeguards, paying certain costs, and filing an Application to Separate Violative Wood Packaging Material directly with the port director.

Obviously, this Application to Separate can be granted or denied. Filing of the application does not suspend the time period in which you must comply with the Emergency Action Notification to re-export. And if denied, you will still need to re-export. So, application to separate should prepared and filed as soon as possible. If the application is not successful, you will be re-exporting your commodities.

What are the ramifications of importing, or attempting to import, violative wood packaging materials?

Apart from the requirement to re-export the materials and your merchandise, and the costs associated with that come from your supply chain and your inventory problem, there are penalties that can be imposed by Customs for this type of violation.

Customs will usually send a Notice of Penalty or Liquidated Damages to the importer involved with the wood packaging material violation for violations of 7 CFR 319.40 as being an importation, or attempted importation, contrary to law under 19 USC 1595a, or as commercial fraud or negligence under 19 USC 1592. As in the case with all customs penalties, there are guidelines for reducing the amount of money customs seeks in penalty. This can only be done by filing a petition for mitigation.

What do I do next?

If you have been informed that you wood packaging material is in violation of the law and needs to be re-exported, immediately call or e-mail office at (734) 855-4999 and we can prepare an application to separate violative wood packaging material so that, if it is granted, you do not have to undergo the time and expense of re-exporting the merchandise you are trying to import.

If you have received a notice of penalty or liquidated damages and are being told you must as a result of the violation, immediately call or e-mail our office at (734) 855-4999 and we can prepare a petition for mitigation of the penalty amount.

A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs

What happens to money and property seized by Customs?

Once U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes your money or property it can eventually be forfeited (lost forever to the government); it doesn’t matter if it’s merchandise or cash/currency transported without being reported, structured, or smuggled. Before the property is forfeited the owner can try to get it back (remitted).

But once property is forfeited, it forever becomes property of the United States Government. As a government attorney once told me, it goes to that big government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I don’t think he was joking.

What happens after property is seized by Customs?

First, appraisement: CBP must give anything seized a “domestic value.” This is usually measured by

A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs
A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs (click to elarge)

“price at which such or similar property is freely offered for sale at the time and place of appraisement, in the same quantity or quantities as seized, and in the ordinary course of trade.” Although an oversimplification, this is basically the fair-market value of the seized property at the time and place of seizure.

Customs conducts an inspection of the goods to determine if they are admissible (i.e., whether they can be allowed entry into the U.S.). Certain things, like narcotics, unsafe electrical components, or lead-tainted children’s toys are inadmissable.

What happens after property is forfeited by Customs?

If the goods are admissible, but the importer could not get the property back at the agency or through federal district court, then Customs can:

  1. Destroy it. If Customs determines it violates copyright laws, has no commercial value, or is a safety risk or violates U.S. law, the port director is authorized destroy the forfeited merchandise. If this doesn’t apply, it can be disposed elsewhere.
  2. Sell it. If the merchandise is sold, Customs will notify the importer, the consignee, the shipper, and the warehouse transferee of the sale no less than 30 days beforehand and then hold a public auction, sometimes online, overseen by the port director. This includes perishables, agricultural products, alcoholic beverages, and vehicles. Counterfeit goods may be sold with the permission of the U.S. trademark holder once the counterfeit mark has been obliterated and at least 90 days after forfeiture, provided that no government agency or charitable institution has a need for them. For example, customs has donated seized fossils to the University of Michigan in the past.
  3. Use it. Last, the government can use it. The products must be unclaimed or abandoned, which means nonpayment of duties and 6 months in Customs custody. The port director must give a 30 day notice, as above. Afterward, the items belong to Customs and they can decide to to use it or distribute it to another government agency.

Item 3 is true for seized money/currency. At the completion of all procedures, seized and forfeited money transfers to the U.S. government. If your money was seized by Customs, read our Customs Money Seizure Legal Guide.

 

 

Customs seizes $360,000 in Unreported Money

A May 3rd news release from Customs & Border Protection details a recent money seizure in Texas. The release says that Customs officer’s seized $360,025 in unreported currency from a male Mexican national when attempting to exit the U.S. and enter Mexico.

What is interesting about this story is there is what is not said, because these news releases usually give some indication that they suspect there was some connection with illegal drug activity. This, however, only says what I have written about many times; that a failure to report currency over $10,000 (failure to report), or concealing more than $10,000 with an intent to evade the reporting requirement (bulk cash smuggling) is illegal.

Another curious aspect is that the $360,000 was concealed in 36 separate packages, which means that each package had about $10,000 in it. I don’t know if that’s just a convenient amount to put in a package, or if there were supposed to be 36 different transactions taking the money across the border by different people or at different times.  That would be a structuring violation, anyway.

Here is the full story:

The vehicle, driven by a 23-year-old male Mexican citizen from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was selected for further inspection and was referred to secondary. During the process of the secondary inspection, officers noted irregularities within the vehicle and further inspection revealed multiple hidden packages of unreported U.S. currency. Officer discovered and seized a total of 36 packages, which totaled $360,025 in unreported U.S. currency and also seized the vehicle.

CBP-OFO arrested the male traveler and subsequently released him to the custody of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents for further investigation.

“This outstanding seizure of unreported currency was accomplished due to excellent teamwork from our CBP-OFO officers,” said Efrain Solis Jr., port director, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas. “People who fail to declare currency in excess of $10,000 entering or leaving the country will face penalties or be subject to having CBP seize all of the unreported currency.”

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.

And I always recommend that anyone whose currency has been seized should contact a lawyer to draft a petition for return of the currency. So if you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

Commentary on CBP money seizures in Philly

There is an interesting news release from CBP about some money seizures in Philadelphia that goes beyond the usual “facts-only” narrative style and  standard statements about the role of CBP in a typical CBP news release. I find it so interesting, in fact, that I am quoting it in full and providing my own commentary in red below:

Philadelphia — International travelers who arrive or depart the United States in possession of more than $10,000 are required to report all currency to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and complete a Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) form. Those who deliberately refuse to comply with this federal currency reporting requirement face hefty consequences, from mitigated penalties to having their currency seized.

This is not quite right, because there are others who  “face hefty consequences” apart from those who “deliberately refuse to comply.” This includes people who are ignorant or misinformed about the monetary instrument reporting requirements, people who do not know how much money they are carrying — which could be because they did not count it or forgot it was in a pocket on a suitcase from a prior trip, or people who do not know they are over the limit because they are carrying foreign currency and do not know the exchange rate.

My point: deliberate refusal is just one way to get your money seized. It is definitely not the only way to get money seized, which is what Customs says in this news release. The reporting requirement law is written so that even unknowing violations are still violations. So accidents or other non-deliberate acts can, and often will, result in a seizure of money by Customs.

For example, I know many of my clients are unaware of the reporting requirement.  Others are aware of it but have a vague understanding of what it means for them, what is included as a monetary instrument, and how it is to be reported. Others know of the reporting requirement but think it does not apply in their situation. Finally, there are those who know it applies to them and they intend to make the report. But, when confronted by a uniformed Customs official they are intimidated, panic stricken, or their words are misconstrued. Then the official takes their nervous response for a “deliberate refusal” and tells them to be quiet while they search their bags. They are not given a further opportunity to to file a report or even make a verbal report. 

Other times Customs officers will ask a question like: “How much money do you have on you?” or “How much money is in your wallet?” This question will trigger a truthful response like “a few thousand.” The problem with this scenario is that there may be only a few thousand in their wallet or on their person, but there is a bag in the trunk of their car or two fat envelopes in their checked baggage that has $15,000 in it. So in this case Customs has asked the wrong question, the person has given the correct response, and they are most likely going to get their money seized.

Obviously, I take issue with a question like “How much money is in your wallet?” because the real question should be “How much money are you transporting?” Sure, if you are a confident person, not intimidated by uniformed officers, and know the reporting requirement like the back of your hand then you might say, “Well, I have $2,500 in my wallet, but in my wife’s baggage there are two envelopes with a total of $9,860 and I have a notebook in my carry-on luggage with another €5,000, too.” This is the correct response to any question about your money, but who would think to respond like that when all they ask about is your wallet?

So because the person does not give a full disclosure and only answers the question asked by Customs, they will be taken to an area where the person thinks they will have a chance to make a report about what the officer didn’t ask about, count the money, and make the report. Then the officers conduct a secondary examination, searching their vehicle or their baggage and find all the money that was not reported to Customs — and they seize it, after lengthy questioning where the person misses their connecting flight or whatever appointments they might have.

Now here is the problem: The question about what is in their wallet is unfair if asked to try to elicit a violation of the reporting requirement. Yes, other questions are more fair, and more accurate. However, Customs does not have to ask anything at all. Knowing about the reporting requirement and making the report is entirely up to the person who is transporting the money. So even if Customs asks the trick wallet question, or they say nothing at all, you still have to file a report and file it correctly. My problem with trick  questions is that it seems  designed to elicit a violation rather than achieve compliance.

The story continues…

A Russian man learned that lesson the hard way after CBP officers seized $34,500 from him Thursday afternoon at Philadelphia International Airport. During a secondary examination, the Russian man claimed verbally and in writing that he possessed $9,000; however, CBP officers counted $35,000. CBP officers released $500 to the man for humanitarian relief and provided him directions on how to petition the U.S. government for the remaining currency.

This is just the standard petition process, but you also have other options. Usually the petition advice is not received until given the notice of seizure, which can come days, weeks, or even months after the money seizure occurs. The length of times varies on the investigation, case load, and size of the port.

CBP officers assessed a mitigated $1,000 penalty to another Russian man who arrived on the same flight. That man also reported possessing only $9,000; however CBP officers discovered a stack of bills in his baggage. All currency equaled $18,800.

Well, good for this man who got his money back on the scene – usually any mis-report by 5% or more will not be returned on the scene; however, if the total amount is $25,000 or less and no further investigation into the incident is deemed warranted and the traveler has documentation showing legitimate source and legitimate intended use and there is no nexus to criminal activity, then the money can be returned.

“Customs and Border Protection officers offer travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report their currency, but those who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements face severe consequences, such as hefty penalties, or having their currency seized, or potential criminal charges,” said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the area port of Philadelphia. “The easiest way to keep your currency is to truthfully report it.”

I know that this is sometimes true, but I am also sure that this is not always true. I know many clients had  opportunities to report transporting more than $10,000 in money but there are many have also been subjected to “zealous enforcement” and asked trick questions without sufficient opportunity to make, or amend, a report.  Sometimes the philosophy of some Customs officers is to “seize first, ask questions later.”

My clients also report intimidating behavior while they are being detained, like back-slapping, laughter, high-fiving among officers about their seizure prowess, unfounded threats of criminal prosecution, and Dirty Harry type comments like, “This ain’t your first time at the rodeo.”

It is also true, as this news release says, that the easiest way to keep your currency is to report it; but Customs can still theoretically seize your money if you have under $10,000 and they think you are “structuring” to avoid to have to file a report, or if you report over $10,000 but lack good documentation about the source and use of the funds, or if they believe it has some connection to criminal activity.

The story continues…

Philadelphia CBP recorded three additional currency reporting violations recently and one ended in the seizure of $17,516.

  • CBP issued a mitigated $500 penalty to an Israeli man April 18 who claimed that he possessed $10,000; however CBP officers discovered an additional $860 in his pockets.
  • CBP issued a mitigated $1,000 penalty to a Swiss mother and her Israeli son April 10 after CBP officers discovered $23,146 in U.S. dollars, Swiss francs and Israeli shekels. The pair, who arrived from Switzerland, reported possessing a combined $10,100 U.S. dollars and 7,700 Swiss francs. CBP officers discovered multiple bundles of currency during a baggage examination and inside a travel pillow. [See, this type of discovery makes Customs suspicious — but if you are traveling internationally it makes perfect sense to keep the money in different locations in your personal effects so that if lost or stolen, not all your money is lost or stolen. But, in this case the different locations probably resulted in a  a charge of failure to report and bulk cash smuggling.]
  • CBP issued a mitigated $1,000 penalty to a British man April 5 after CBP officers discovered that the man possessed $20,839 in U.S. dollars and British pounds. The man, who arrived from the United Kingdom, declared possessing only $9,000. CBP officers discovered several bundles of British pounds and two envelopes containing U.S. currency.
  • CBP seized $17,516 from a Nigerian woman who arrived March 29 after CBP officers discovered that she possessed $19,016. The woman claimed that she possessed $7,000; however CBP officers found more than $7,000 during an examination of the woman’s purse. CBP officers released $1,500 to the woman for humanitarian purposes and provided the woman directions to petition for the remaining currency.
  • In each case involving mitigated penalties, CBP officers required the travelers to complete a FinCEN form.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers can import or export; however federal law requires travelers to report to CBP amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

In addition to narcotics interdiction, CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international flights and intercepts currency, weapons, prohibited agriculture products or other illicit items.

So there you have it. If you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.