Category: Currency Seizure

Envelopes of cash seized by Dulles airport CBP

Dulles CBP Seizes $167K in Unreported Cash; Ruins Vacations of 6

The first few weeks of February 2024 saw a lot of cash seizure activity for CBP at Dulles airport, which is basically the norm. Most of the stories publicized by CBP as money seizures from your ordinary traveler (and not your US-Mexico drug/cash smuggling travelers) is coming out of Dulles airport, very near to Washington DC.

In the summary of cash seizure activity, there were a total of 6 cash seizures running from February 7 to February 24 and the total amount seized was $167,257.  The original release is here, with the important parts and my comments below:

STERLING, Va. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized more than $167,000 in unreported currency during six separate seizures in February at Washington Dulles International Airport. [ . . . ]

CBP officers routinely conduct outbound examinations on departing international flights to ensure that all travelers comply with U.S. laws and regulations, including federal currency reporting requirements. During these departure inspections, CBP officers allow travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report all currency in their possession through both a verbal and a written declaration.

Sometimes, CBP officers or CBP currency detector dogs discover unreported or bulk currency, such as in the following six seizures.

    • On February 24, CBP officers seized $26,300 in unreported currency from a traveler boarding a flight to Brussels, Belgium. CBP canine Cato alerted to the currency.
    • On February 21, CBP officers seized $18,949 in unreported currency from a traveler boarding a flight to Jedda, Saudi Arabia. CBP canine Fuzz, a 4-year-old male yellow labrador retriever, alerted to the currency. Fuzz is also trained to detect firearms and ammunition and has worked at Dulles airport for about 2.5 years.
    • On February 19, CBP officers seized $45,009 in unreported currency from a traveler boarding a flight to Brussels, Belgium. CBP canine Fuzz alerted to the currency.
    • On February 16, CBP officers seized $26,256 in unreported currency from a traveler boarding a flight to Accra, Ghana. CBP canine Cato alerted to the currency.
    • On February 13, CBP officers seized $38,150 in unreported currency from a traveler boarding a flight to Brussels.
    • On February 7, CBP officers seized $12,593 in unreported currency from a traveler boarding a flight to Accra.

“We know that airlines are focused on quickly onboarding their international passengers and so currency detector dogs are instrumental in assisting Customs and Border Protection officers enforce our nation’s currency reporting laws while also getting aircraft out on time,” said Marc E. Calixte, Area Port Director for CBP’s Area Port of Washington, D.C. “These seizures should also be a reminder to travelers that they can board their flight quicker and with all their money in their possession if they truthfully report it all to a CBP officer.”

Travelers who fail to truthfully report all of their currency risk severe consequences, including missing their flight and interrupting vacation plans, to seeing all their currency seized by a CBP officer, to facing potential criminal prosecution for bulk currency smuggling.

Unreported bulk currency may sometimes be the proceeds of illegal activity, such as financial fraud and money scams. Greed may also cause some travelers to smuggle unreported currency that they may have lawfully attained to shield it from family or business partners.

CBP officers and agents seized an average of about $217,700 in unreported or illicit currency every day during 2022 along our nation’s borders.

Has Dulles CBP seized your money and ruined your vacation?

If Dulles CBP has seized your money, 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.

Bulk cash seized by CBP in Dulles airport

San Diego CBP Money Seizure of $20,155 (yawn)

CBP in San Diego has quite a few ports, including Calexico, Otay Mesa, Cross Border Xpress, San Ysidro, and Tecate. CBP seizes cash from Mexicans and Americans at each of them

In early 2024, CBP officers in San Diego seized $20,155 in currency from someone going into Mexico. This kind of money seizure in San Diego are common. I have had numerous clients over the years traveling to Mexico for cosmetic procedures, to purchase real estate, to buy or sell cars at auction, or many other personal or economic reasons, all with money. So in this case, the seizure of $20,155 in unreported currency by Customs is not a surprise, so much that it almost seems not worth mentioning compared to the other seizures discussed in the story, like 472 pounds of narcotics. Anyway, here is the story from CBP:

SAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers within the San Diego Field Office worked tirelessly despite severe inclement weather over the weekend seizing $2.4 million worth of narcotics, a weapon and currency.

A combined total of 367 packages were discovered in vehicles over the weekend testing positive for the properties of methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine. Officers extracted narcotics from various locations in vehicles such as the trunk, roof, firewall, air intake box, doors, floorboards, gas tanks, and quarter panels. The narcotics seized by CBP had a combined weight of 472 pounds with an estimated street value of $2,483,780.

Adding to the weekend busts, CBP officers at the San Ysidro port of entry discovered a 9mm handgun, one 33-round extended magazine, 30 9mm rounds of ammunition, and marijuana in a traveler’s purse.

The final incident occurred when CBP officers at the San Ysidro port of entry encountered a vehicle traveling into Mexico. During inspection of the vehicle, CBP officers discovered unreported currency in the amount of $20,155.

Has San Diego CBP seized your money?

If San Diego CBP seized your money 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.

Dulles CBP Seized $46K in Money from Airport Traveler

CBP at Dulles airport seized $46,000 from a man traveling to Cameroon. He reported having $30,000, but CBP found $16,628 more tucked away inside his carry-on bag (ahem, bulk cash smuggling). The full story is here, with my comments on the excerpt below:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $46,628 in unreported currency (ahem, failure to report) from a man traveling to Cameroon at Washington Dulles International Airport on Monday.

CBP officers conducted random outbound inspections of passengers boarding a flight to Brussels, Belgium and asked a U.S. citizen how much currency he possessed. The man reported verbally that he had $30,000 and completed a U.S. Treasury Department form (FINCEN 105). During a subsequent examination of the man’s carry-on bags, CBP officers discovered a total of $46,628 in U.S. dollars.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Washington Dulles International Airport seized $46,628 in unreported currency from a U.S. citizen traveling to Cameroon on September 27, 2021.

. . .

CBP seized the currency and returned $628 to the man as humanitarian relief and released the man to continue his travel. CBP is not releasing the traveler’s name because he was not criminally charged.

Bad things can happen to you if you do not report your currency, read all about that at Long Term Consequences of Cash Seizure (or if you prefer to watch me talk about it, go to my YouTube video on the topic)

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.

U.S. Money Seized by Customs (CBP) Stacked on a Table with Envelopes

Dulles Airport Cash Seizure Nets CBP $40K

A Dulles airport cash seizure resulted in a $40,000 loss for a Ghanaian man who had his money seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) for allegedly falsely reporting having only $10,000, while he had hid another $30,000 within packages in his luggage. The hiding of the money is bulk cash smuggling, and the report of only $10,000 is a failure to report violation.

Dulles airport cash seizure showing $40,00 stacked on a table with envelopes
CBP officers seized $40,019 from a Ghanaian man for violating federal currency reporting laws at Washington Dulles International Airport on December 5, 2015.

The story, which we are including below, says that the person was told by Dulles CBP how to file an administrative petition for return of the “rest of the currency”. Here’s the truth about that: if the CAFRA notice of seizure alleges bulk cash smuggling (which is very probably based on what we are told here), then this person might only get back half of his money, or less, for the violation.

 This is why you should never take legal advice from someone who’s not a lawyer, and especially from a customs officer who just seized your money.
It may be more beneficial for this man to file a CAFRA seized asset claim form or make an offer in compromise, not a petition. If you’re wondering how best to handle your Dulles airport cash seizure or one that occurred somewhere else by customs,  contact us and read all we have written about customs money seizures.

The Dulles airport cash seizure news release excerpt, as told by CBP:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO), at Washington Dulles International Airport seized $40,019 Saturday from a Ghanaian citizen for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

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.

A man was boarding a flight to Ghana and was selected for questioning by CBP officers who were conducting an outbound enforcement operation on an international flight.  The man completed a financial form, reporting $10,000, however; a total of $40,019 was discovered — $10,019 on his person and $30,000 in his luggage secreted inside two computer boxes.  CBP officers seized the $40,019 and advised him how to petition for the return of the rest of the currency.

“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 Wayne Biondi, CBP Area Port Director for the Port of Washington Dulles. “The traveler was given the opportunity to truthfully report his currency. The easiest way to hold on to your money is to report it.”

 

U.S. Currency Seized by CBP Wrapped In Rubber Bands and Black Plastic on a Table

Unreported Bulk Cash of $112k Seized by CBP

Nearly $112,000 in unreported bulk cash was seized by U.S. Customs (CBP) officers from a U.S. citizen heading into Mexico last week. In its news releases CBP almost always calls the seized cash “unreported” or “undeclared” even when its apparently hidden for the purpose of evading the requirement to report more than $10,000 in cash to Customs. But this news release correctly calls it unreported bulk cash because it was was found “hidden within the vehicle.”

Unreported bulk cash seized by CBP wrapped in rubber bands and black plastic
Bundles of unreported bulk cash seized by CBP at the Brownsville port of entry wrapped in black plastic

The seizure took place on Wednesday, Dec. 2, when CBP officers working at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge came in contact with a black 2007 Chevy Tahoe as it attempted to exit the United States into Mexico. The driver, a 25-year-old male United States citizen from Brownsville, Texas, was selected for a routine outbound inspection. CBP officers referred the vehicle to secondary for further inspection. During the examination, CBP officers utilized a non-intrusive imaging system and detected anomalies within the vehicle. A physical search of the Chevy Tahoe resulted in the discovery of multiple packages of bulk U.S. currency totaling $111,456 hidden within the vehicle.

This is classic unreported bulk cash smuggling laws, and as we explain in that article on the topic, means that even if legitimate intended source and use of the money are proven, a very high rate of forfeiture will apply; meaning that in the best case scenario the unreported bulk cash smuggler will get 50% of his money back from Customs, and at worst, 0%.

Unreported bulk cash consequences

In unreported bulk cash smuggling cases a person may face criminal charges, or may just face civil forfeiture and civil monetary penalties for the violation. If you have had unreported bulk cash seized by Customs, get your free currency seizure consultation.

Two red envelopes with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.

Why some Chinese travel with cash leading to airport seizures

One question I face from most Americans when I tell them that our customs law firm helps people recover from money after customs money seizure is, “Why would anyone travel with all that money?”

Two red envelopes (hongbao) with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.
Some Chinese bring money in red envelopes (hongbao) for the Chinese new year celebration to give to family

It’s a good question.The answer? Many foreign governments, China in particular, restrict the amount and method that its citizens can take from the country via capital-controls; when the economy tanks or the currency is devalued, it increases the desire to move the money into another country before the market gets worse.

A few years ago the Wall Street Journal did a story about rich Chinese trying to get their money out of China, in the form of cash, that illustrates this point. The story is Chinese Fly Cash West, by the Suitcase and it provides some insight into why people travel with Cash from China, and why Customs seizes this money from them at airports:

China restricts private citizens from taking out more than $50,000 per individual per year. While it is hard to enforce these restrictions, Chinese authorities are scrutinizing outgoing private cash amid a broad anticorruption drive and as worry grows over the risks of capital flight.

The money seized at airports represents just a sliver of private Chinese money pouring out, but highlights that Chinese citizens are turning to one of the oldest and simplest methods to evade those controls: taking cash out in a suitcase.

The articles goes on to say:

From 2009 to 2011, U.S. airport customs officers seized over $5 million in undeclared cash from Chinese citizens, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That is 8.4% of the total seized and more than double the nearest amount for another nationality.

Transporting large amounts of cash isn’t necessarily illegal. Travelers must declare cash over $10,000 when they land in Canada or the U.S. Most undeclared cash is temporarily seized and subject to fines. If customs agents believe the cash comes from illegal activities, the onus is on the traveler to prove otherwise before it is returned.

I would correct this final paragraph with a few legal subtleties. If any amount of money is undeclared to customs, all of the money transported may be seized and, if legitimate source and use are not proven to Customs, will be forfeited forever (i.e., lost). This burden is on the traveler whether or not Customs believe the cash comes from illegal activities. It must always be proven.

Moving cash from China subjects a person to fines in China:

In China, violators of Beijing’s rules on moving out cash are also subject to fines. From 2007 to 2011, China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange levied such fines totaling 1.27 billion yuan ($202 million), according to the most recent data available.

The story goes on to state that seizures from 2009 to 2011 dramatically increased at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and San Francisco for money seized by Customs from Chinese nationals. But the numbers seized by U.S. Customs were smaller than that seized by Canadian customs. Apparently because property rules rules and investor visas are easier to obtain.

The New York Times also published a story we tweeted about:

I’m sure the cash is flooding the U.S. market now for the same reasons. Customs will seize unreported money from any Chinese traveler or immigrant at any U.S. airport if they catch them.

CBP Seized $45k cash in Nassau

CBP has preclearance centers which are basically the same as customs in the United States, but just located in a foreign country; this is to facilitate travel and enforcement of the laws. One such law enforced at preclearance centers is the requirement to report more than $10,000 being transported into the United States. CBP has pre-clearance in the Bahamas.

Over the weekend, Customs seized $45,000 in Nassau from one or more people for failing to report currency over $10,000, and tweeted a picture of the seizure:

This was responded to by a tweet that made me smile: “What are you going to do with it?” Classic! CBP has not responded (in fact, they may have deleted the tweet?). But here’s our answer so you will know what customs does with seized cash. I went ahead and explained that customs does not always keep seized currency if the person can prove it came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use by responding to the notice of seizure: 

Which caused another person to ask:

I responded that the best answer is is probably “Sometimes” and that the reporting requirement is actually “more than $10,000” not $10,000. Remember, I say sometimes because even if you make the an accurate report the money is still subject to seizure for other reasons, such as a suspicion that it is connected to money laundering or some criminal activity.

I suspect this Nassau customs cash confiscation of $45,000 is the result of more than one currency seizure for failure to report. That’s because the picture cash in the picture does not appear to add up to $45,000, but somewhere around $30,000 (assuming each stack is $1,000).

Don’t forget to follow Great Lakes Customs Law on Twitter!

 

U.S. Customs Confiscates $50k in Cash at Texas Airports

Customs officers confiscated a total of nearly $50,000 from international travelers at Texas airports in the last few weeks alone. Specifically, the cash seizure by customs was at San Antonio International Airport and at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. The first story involves $16,000 of currency that sounds like it was structured by an adult father and daughter traveling together in order to evade the reporting requirement. The story finishes by stating that in the last fiscal year (ending October 31), CBP seized more than $81,496,161 ($81.5 million!) in undeclared or illicit currency.

San Antonio Airport picture of $16,000 in unreported currency.
San Antonio International Airport discovered a pair of travelers carrying over $16,000 in unreported currency.

On Nov. 3, CBP officers working at the San Antonio International Airport discovered a pair of travelers carrying over $16,000 in unreported currency.  The travelers, who are citizens of Mexico and traveling together, arrived separately to CBP for processing and each reported they were traveling alone.  

Both who claimed to be traveling alone and reported carrying less than $10,000. However when question furthered, the travelers, a father, 53 and his daughter 27 admitted that they were in fact traveling together.  The amount of currency discovered among their belongings added up to $16,000.   The currency was seized for failure to properly report currency in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000.

The second story involves a single traveler leaving for Argentina who reported only having $9,000, but really had more than $33,000 (tsk tsk). In addition, the money was not in a single location but was in “several envelopes stashed among his belongings.” The fact that it was stashed may give rise to bulk cash smuggling as a second ground for seizure beyond the failure to report.

Three days later at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport CBP officers seized currency from a traveler who was departing the United States head to Argentina.  The passenger reported $9,000 in his possession, however when CBP officers completed the currency verification, more than $33,400 was discovered.  The cash was found in several envelopes stashed among his belongings. CBP seized the currency.

Cash that was discovered in several envelopes stashed among belongings.
The cash was found in several envelopes stashed among his belongings. CBP seized the currency.

International travelers with negotiable monetary instruments valued at $10,000 or greater in their possession must complete a form FinCEN 105, Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments according to U.S. law.  Negotiable monetary instruments include currency, personal checks that have been endorsed, travelers’ checks, gold coins, securities or stocks in bearer form.

Philly CBP Seized $27k: Unreported & Concealed

Customs seized the equivalent to about USD $27,000 from a couple arriving from Belgium (the author of the story calls this Belgian couple a “Belgium couple”). Apart from that typo, the story is interesting because it seems to involve bulk cash smuggling. Bulk cash smuggling is when money is concealed with the intent to evade the reporting requirement.

Here, the couple reported travelling with €6,000, verbally and in writing. But, upon inspection, the CBP found and confiscated $14,321 and €11,567 “concealed inside a wallet, including inside the wallet lining”. Having the money in a wallet itself, and inside a sport coat pocket are not suspicious in and of itself… but the location of the money together with the failure to accurately report anywhere near the total amount being carried would give customs the cause to seize the cash for bulk cash smuggling. The original is here, excerpt below:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $27,001 in unreported currency from a Belgium couple for violating federal currency reporting requirements at Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday.

The couple reported that they possessed 3,000 Euro each, both verbally and on their CBP Declaration form. During a routine secondary examination, CBP officers discovered $14,321 U.S. dollars and 11,567 Euros concealed inside a wallet, including inside the wallet lining, and inside a sport coat pocket. The currency equated to $27,001 in equivalent U.S. dollars.

The article says it was seized for reporting violations, so it’s not entirely clear they alleged bulk cash smuggling. Only upon receipt of the notice of seizure will the reasons be finalized.

If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or 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. Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case
  14. Understanding CBP’s Election of Proceedings Form

$830K Seized for Bulk Cash Smuggling

When is a 2010 Dodge Journey worth almost a million dollars? When there is $830,000 dollars hidden in the dashboard.

CBP has broad search authority. In fact, not only do they have largely unfettered discretion to search at the border (not only land borders but airports), but they also have broad search authority at the “functional equivalent” of the border. The current state of the law in this area means that, among other things, CBP may pull over cars within 100 miles of the border and question those inside if they have reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity. If you want to learn more, read this nice summary of the law.

This 100-mile border search authority is the context for the following news release:

TEMECULA, Calif.—U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested a man Tuesday who had hidden large quantities of cash behind his SUV’s dashboard.

The incident occurred at approximately 2 p.m. when agents patrolling Interstate 15 stopped a 2010 Dodge Journey. The 54-year old Mexican national driver was unable to answer routine questions consistently.

A K-9 sniff of the man’s vehicle resulted in a positive alert, agents then brought the vehicle to the I-15 checkpoint to conduct a more thorough search. At the checkpoint, agents put the vehicle on a lift and discovered a hidden compartment behind the dashboard. The compartment contained 61 bundles of cash.

In total, the bundles contained $830,060 in U.S. currency. The man was arrested and charged with bulk cash smuggling.

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. 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. Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case