Category: News

Baltimore CBP Seizes $44K in Unreported Currency

CBP in Baltimore has made another news release about currency seizures for currency reporting requirement violations conducted at their port. This time we have some visual support for the story:

Baltimore — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) seized $44,783 yesterday from a Nigerian man for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

The passenger, who arrived to BWI from London, United Kingdom and destined for Washington, D.C., repeatedly declared possessing only $5,000. While examining the passenger’s luggage, CBP officers discovered multiple envelopes wrapped in clothing that contained U.S. and foreign currency totaling the equivalent of $45,283.

Baltimore Cbp Seizes 44k Unreported Currency
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.

CBP officers seized $44,783 and returned $500 in U.S. currency to the passenger for humanitarian relief. CBP officers also advised the traveler how to petition for the return of his seized 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 Susan Thomas, Acting 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.”

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

 

So many times I read this news releases and just wonder what people are thinking when they declare having a substantial amount of money, but not enough to put them over the reporting requirement. Like here the guy declares $5,000, but really he’s carrying over $45,000. Declaring a lesser amount than you are actually transporting does not mitigate the penalty for a seizure nor does it prevent Customs from seizing your money.  In certain circumstances, Customs can allow for human error and remit a seizure on site when the amount reported is not far off from what is actually being transported; but there’s no way a person can think that by reporting $5,000 when you’re actually carrying $40,000 more is going to give you any advantages. And by reporting $5,000, it seems highly likely that Customs is going to want to verify what you are telling them by taking you to a secondary inspection, going through your baggage, and counting what they find.

If you have money seized and receive a notice of seizure, 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 ourcontact 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.

CBP Seizes $34,685 in Unreported Currency in Puerto Rico

In another interesting news release, CBP reports on a monetary instrument/currency seizure that occured in Puerto Rico:

San Juan, Puerto Rico — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $34,685 in unreported currency last Thursday from a passenger arriving at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport from Venezuela.

Tetsuro Nakada, 64, of Florida, failed to accurately declare having in his possession $15,335 and seven (7) checks totaling $19,350.

Nakada provided incorrect information concerning the amount of money he was carrying to federal agents. CBP officers found an envelope with $12,000, another envelope inside a book with $3,335, and a small plastic bag with 7 checks totaling $19,350.

The currency was seized under bulk cash smuggling laws. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI ) special agents arrested Nakada and will proceed with an investigation.

“The unreported cash that we seize has an impact on criminal organizations by making it more difficult for them to further their illicit activities,” said Juan Hurtado, San Juan Area port director. “CBP officers remain vigilant generating important enforcement activity regularly.”

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the United States. However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP. Failure to report may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

It’s kind of reverse engineer the facts and figure out what went wrong here. Certainly, any misreport of the amount of monetary instruments, including cash and foreign currencies, is the most classic and simplest type of violation of the currency reporting requirements. In addition to a failure to report the correct amount of money (by how much we are not told), there is potentially a violation of a bulk cash smuggling laws for “concealing” the money in the envelope and in a book. Yes, that’s really as complicated as it needs to get in terms of concealment for the government to allege bulk cash smuggling; but, as I have previously discussed in another article about bulk cash smuggling, bulk cash smuggling must also show concealment with the intent to evade the reporting requirement.

However, as we discussed in another article on what monetary instruments need to be reported, not all types of checks are subject to the monetary instrument reporting requirement. I think the risk of carrying checks, even when not in bearer form could potentially be too risky to advise any client to do because the likely result will be an allegation of a structuring violation if you are trying to use use the checks to defeat the reporting requirement.

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.

CBP Currency Seizures in Philadelphia for Violations of the Currency Reporting Regulations

CBP in Philadelphia has really stepped up their news releases concerning currency seizures.  Recently, there is a new release which I quote in part below. The Port in Philadelphia always gives us the most detail in the currency seizures, making it ripe for my commentary. Thus, I have put my own emphasis in bold lettering and my comments in [brackets].

A U.S. woman learned a very difficult lesson Sunday at Philadelphia International Airport after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $39,570 that she failed to truthfully report to officers.

The woman, who was not criminally charged [though she could have been, as I write about here], arrived from Portugal with a Portuguese friend. Both women were referred to a secondary examination after both reported possessing more than $10,000 in currency [note that though both reported over $10,000, the report still must be accurate] – the U.S. woman claimed $30,620; the Portuguese woman $20,700. During the secondary examination, CBP officers learned that $40,570 of the combined $51,320 belonged to the U.S. woman [which is a structuring violation if the money was given to her travelling companion to avoid the reporting requirement]. CBP released $1,000 to the U.S. woman for humanitarian purposes and seized the remaining $39,570. Officers advised her how to petition for the seized currency. [And she no doubt is waiting for notice of seizure and election of proceedings form. Read about how to respond to a currency seizure here.]

CBP officers also assessed a $500 mitigated currency reporting penalty to the Portuguese woman. It was one of six currency reporting penalties for a combined $3,500 in penalties that CBP officers assessed to travelers in the two-week period from July 21 to August 4.

There is no limit to how much currency that travelers can bring into, or take out of the United States. Travelers are required to formally report amounts of $10,000 or more in U.S. dollars, equivalent foreign currency, or other monetary instruments.

“CBP derives no great pleasure from seizing travelers’ currency. [Institutionally, perhaps, but the occasional seizing agent no doubt takes some pride in their accomplishments.] However, there are consequences for failing to comply with U.S. laws,” said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “We hope that word of these penalties will compel these and other travelers to be honest with us and to truthfully declare what they are bringing to the U.S.”

The remaining five currency reporting penalties included:

July 29, CBP officers assessed a $500 penalty to a 37-year-old Nigerian man who reported $8,500, but officers discovered that he possessed $11,400.
July 27, CBP officers assessed a $500 penalty to a 76-year-old Nigerian man who reported $5,000, but officers discovered that he possessed $11,622.
July 26, CBP officers assessed a $500 penalty to a 53-year-old Italian man who reported $7,000 in U.S. dollars, 250 Euros and 500 British pounds. Officers discovered that the man possessed $10,071 in U.S. dollars, 1,150 Euros and 1,500 British pounds, equivalent to $13,213 in U.S. dollars.
July 23, CBP officers assessed a $1,000 penalty to a 68-year-old Italian man who officers found to have structured $24,644 between himself, his brother and his girlfriend to evade reporting requirements for possessing more than $10,000.
July 21, CBP officers assessed a $500 penalty to a 38-year-old Ghanaian woman who reported $9,000, but officers discovered that she possessed $11,870.
Privacy laws prohibit CBP from releasing their names as no subjects were criminally charged.

CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international passengers and cargo, and searches for terrorist weapons, illicit narcotics, unreported currency, counterfeit merchandise, and prohibited agriculture and other products.

If you have considered your options and decide in you want to hire an lawyer, or have other questions, please contact us by calling (734) 855-4999 or by clicking here – it’s almost never too late to get a lawyer involved. We will be happy to answer any questions you have and explain the process to you.

If you have other questions about currency seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 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?

 

Philly CBP Provides On-Site Mitigatation for Reporting Violation after Currency Seizure

Coming out of the Philadelphia airport, CBP has another news release dealing this time with a currency seizure based on a structuring violation and failure to report by U.S. Customs and Border Protection :

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Philadelphia International Airport assessed a $1,000 penalty to an Italian citizen Tuesday for violating federal currency reporting requirements. During a secondary inspection, the man, who arrived from Italy, reported possessing $11,700. It was later discovered that the man had given money to two co-travelers in order to evade currency reporting requirements, an illegal practice known as currency structuring. In total the cash added up to $24,644. CBP officers seized the money, issued the man a $1,000 penalty, and then returned the remaining cash back to the man.

[ . . . ]

“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, port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “The easiest way to keep your currency is to truthfully report it.”

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.

So Customs’ determined that man was in transporting $24,644, but he had given $12,944 to two people with whom he was traveling. As explained in the article linked above, it is illegal to structuring a transaction to avoid filing the currency reporting requirement. From the facts as narrated, it almost looks as though the man did voluntarily report traveling with more than $10,000 ($11,700), but mis-reported the amount by failing to disclose the remaining $12,994 that his “co-travelers” were carrying. I think that the argument could be made that there was no structuring violation if he did file the report; just a violation to accurately report the amount of money that was being transported. That’s a tricky, technical argument to make, though. Never put yourself in that situation.

On the bright side for this individual, he was able to get his money back on the scene – he did not have to go through the petition process, and its inherent delays, to get the seized money back. As far as I am aware, on-scene mitigation is only available to those persons who are transporting less than $25,000, and who mis-report an amount that is 5% or less in variance with the actual amount being transported. I am not sure how this case qualified for on-scene mitigation because the mis-report was greater than 5%, but this gentleman should consider himself lucky.

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 Seizes Money Smuggled in Gas Tank

Although this case is definitely outside the realm of your average failure to report currency in excess of $10,000, I always find these types of smuggling cases interesting because they show the great lengths and cleverness that people will go when smuggling. It also shows that great talent of the men and women (and their trained dogs) of U.S. Customs & Border Protection in detecting smugglers and smuggled property.

U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”) reports another currency seizure at the U.S.-Mexico border, as follows:

Calexico, Calif. — U.S. law enforcement officials in Calexico, Calif. found more than $750,000 cash hidden in a gas tank Monday, in a vehicle headed into Mexico.

At about 10 a.m., U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, together with members of the Imperial Valley Border Enforcement Security Task Force, were conducting inspections of vehicles in the U.S. headed south into Mexico at the downtown Calexico port of entry.

Officers targeted a silver 2005 Honda Accord, driven by a 24-year-old female U.S. citizen, for inspection.

A CBP officer with a currency/firearms detector dog screened the vehicle, and the canine alerted to the gas tank area.

Officials found 42 packages of unreported U.S. currency, vacuum sealed in clear plastic bags, floating within the gas tank. The currency totaled $762,930. Officials also found another $221 in U.S. currency on the driver.

CBP officers seized the currency and the vehicle, and turned the driver over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with the Imperial Valley Border Enforcement Security Task Force. The San Diego U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute the driver.

Yes, that’s right, over three-quarters of a million dollars floating in bags in an automobile’s gas tank. And the dog still smelled it.

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.

$25K Currency Seizure at Philadelphia International Airport

This is the second such story from Philadephia about Russian’s and the Philadelphia airport, the first one I commented on here. CBP releases this news with my emphasis in bold:

Philadelphia – Failing to truthfully declare items to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists at Philadelphia International Airport proved to be expensive lessons for several travelers during a busy weekend.

CBP officers seized $25,720 from a Russian citizen Friday, and assessed a mitigated $1,000 penalty to a U.S. citizen Sunday who each violated federal currency reporting requirements, [ . . . . ]

“The events of this weekend represent just a simple snapshot into what U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees do at our nation’s 330 ports of entry every day to ensure respect for established U.S. laws, and to protect our citizens, our economy and our nation,” said Paul Nardella, acting CBP port director for the area port of Philadelphia. “The one thing that we ask is for travelers be honest with us and truthfully declare what they are bringing to the U.S.”

The Russian man first reported that he possessed $9,000 during a routine inspection Friday. He then amended that amount to $19,000 after CBP officers advised him that currency reporting requirement also covered personal and travelers checks. CBP officers then discovered a total of $27,448 during a baggage examination. The currency consisted of $17,220 in U.S. dollars, $250 in Australian dollars (equivalent to $228 USD) and a $10,000 personal check. CBP officers seized $15,720 in U.S. dollars and the check, and released the remainder to the traveler for humanitarian purposes. Officers also advised the traveler the process for petitioning for his currency, and then released him to continue his visit.

CBP officers assessed the mitigated $1,000 penalty Sunday after they discovered $17,579.43 in U.S. dollars and equivalent foreign currency during a baggage inspection. The U.S. man initially reported $4,000 in U.S. dollars and $4000 in Euros.

There is no limit to how much currency that travelers can bring into, or take out of the United States. However, travelers are required to report amounts of $10,000 or more in U.S. dollars, equivalent foreign currency, or other monetary instruments.

[ . . . ]

CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international passengers and cargo, and searches for terrorist weapons, illicit narcotics, unreported currency, counterfeit merchandise, and prohibited agriculture and other products.

 

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.

Read about responding to a customs currency seizure.

CBP Seizes Money at Texas Port of Entry

We bring these cases to our reader’s attention not because many honest people find themselves with thousands of dollars hidden underneath their vehicle’s floorboards in a secret compartment (although it has happened to some of my honest clients), but because they do allow me to bring to the public’s attention the laws surrounding the transportation of more than $10,000 in money across the border and seizure of that money.

Customs and Border Protection, in a recent news releaseCBP Seizes Money Texas Port Of Entry discusses the seizure of $80,000 as a result of a failed smuggling attempt to take the cash out of the country in a

concealed compartment and without filing a currency report disclosing the source of the money and intended use of the money. Thus, it was seized and the driver arrested for smuggling.

The news release states as follows:

CBP currency detector canines searched the vehicle and alerted to the floor. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents continued their search and located a hidden compartment in the floor of the vehicle. They removed multiple tape-wrapped bundles of money in the compartment.

If this individual is found not guilty of a crime, then he faces the  potentially difficult task of proving a legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the money. In this case, we could give the man the benefit of the doubt and presume the legitimate source is the proceeds the sale of valuable pieces of art to an eccentic U.S. art collector and the intended use, perhaps he was intending to open a small restaurant in Mexico City. That’s just my guess, and yes, I have handled more bizarre but true cases.

If we assume he proves these two things, then this situation is regrettable for him and completely avoidable. But now, even if criminal charges are ultimately not filed or if he is ultimately found not guilty of a crime, he will still face civil forfeiture of the money and, if he wants it back, will have to fight for its return administratively, or in the courts.

That brings me to the next point:

If you have had currency seized from Customs, do not go it alone. Get the advice of an attorney who knows what he is doing. If you do not, you might only make the situation worse by handling it on your own or hiring a lawyer who doesn’t regularly handle these cases.

To inform yourself, please read the various articles I have written on this and related topics. But do not let it replace the advice of attorney who is familiar with the law and your particular circumstances. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

CBP seizes $460,060 in unreported currency

The Laredo Sun reports on a recent currency seizure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Laredo, Texas, from a 31 year U.S. citizen from Chicago who was transporting $460,060  as he attempted to drive across the border to Mexico. Something tipped the officers off as he left the U.S., and they pulled him and his vehicle aside for a secondary inspection to verify the amount of money being transported.

The money was apparently concealed in various parts of his vehicle. I can only imagine how long it took them to count it all out and the condition of the truck. If this individual is not prosecuted by the government for criminal violations, he faces the  potentially difficult task of proving a legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the money (not to mention fitting all the plastic interior trim pieces back like new).

car_crossingIn this case, we could give the man the benefit of the doubt and presume the legitimate source is the proceeds of a life insurance policy of a beloved family member; and the intended use, perhaps he was paying cash for a nice place on the Riveria Maya. That’s just my guess, and yes, I have handled stranger cases.

If we assume he proves these two things, then this situation is regrettable for him and completely avoidable. But now, even if criminal charges are ultimately not filed or if he is ultimately found not guilty of a crime, he will still face civil forfeiture of the money and, if he wants it back, will have to fight for its return administratively, or in the courts.

This news story gets a lot of things right about the currency seizure process because they note you can petition for the return of the currency and that the person transporting the unreported currency is subject to arrest for criminal violations.

That brings me to the next point:

If you have had currency seized from Customs, do not go it alone. Get the advice of an attorney who knows what he is doing. If you do not, you might only make the situation worse by handling it on your own or hiring a lawyer who doesn’t regularly handle these cases.

Our customs law firm handles currency/money seizures made by customs in Detroit and around the country; call (734) 855-4999 to consult with a customs lawyer today (you can read our popular page on Responding to a Customs Money Seizure HERE).If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page (see our case results here). We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles customs currency seizures:

  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. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

Customs’ seizes T-Rex skull in Jackson, Wyoming as part of ongoing investigation

According to this news report, and this one, Customs in Jackson, Wyoming, exercised a federal warrant to seize the skull of a Tarbosaurus from someone’s home. The story draws a parallel to another recent news item about the importation of dinosaur bones:

Federal officials recently seized a nearly complete Tarbosaurus skeleton that was sold at auction and arrested a Florida man for illegally importing dinosaur fossils.

A U.S. attorney for the president of Mongolia says that country welcomes the increased awareness for the illegal trade of Mongolian fossils.

Local 8 news.

According to the limited information in the News & Guide article, the fossil was seized for  failure to provide proper documentation that the export was done in compliance with the law.

That article also references a similar case involving a dinosaur skeleton in New York and Florida, and I would also draw the reader’s attention to the story I blogged about a few months ago in Detroit where seized fossils went unclaimed and were thereafter donated to the University of Michigan.

Maybe instead of devoting so much of my blogging lately to avoid having your currency seized I need to start focusing on avoiding having your fossils seized…

Detroit Customs donates seized fossils to University of Michigan

From the Detroit Free Press comes this story about U.S. Customs seizing hundreds of pre-historic fossils for an apparent failure to declare. The article does not make it clear if they were declared at all, or if there was a false declaration (e.g., declared imported for exhibition at a trade show instead of imported for sale). There is probably a reason why the importer(s) never filed a petition for remission to have the fossils returned.

An excerpt of the story follows, with my emphasis in bold:

The fossils — whose origins and age are unknown — were seized in March 2011 after two Canadian men at the Ambassador Bridge claimed they were attending a fossil trade show in Illinois.

A secondary inspection revealed several boxes containing more than 1,100 fossils that were for sale. They were seized because the unidentified men did not properly declare their goods.

[Customs spokesman Ken Hammond] said the agency tried to contact the men several times to reclaim the fossils and pay associated penalties, but they never got back in touch with customs and border protection.

Hammond did not now how much the penalties were. He said the men were not criminally charged. He did not know where the men acquired the fossils.

“The bad part that happened with these individuals is they didn’t declare their intentions to us,” Hammond said, adding that the men would have had to go through the proper importing process.

[ . . . ]

19 USC § 1497 subjects any article excluded in the declaration and entry made by the importer (and not mentioned before baggage inspection begins) to forfeiture. There could also be a monetary penalty under the same statute equal to the value of the fossils.

Customs can, and does, have authority to donate seized property in certain circumstances. Earlier this year, Customs donated $1.3 million worth of seized property to charities.