Category: Seizures

CBP Currency Seizure for Preclearance is Nassau

The on-going trickle of news releases from Customs regarding the annual totals of currency seizures continues. Here is a report, also quoted below, that the U.S. Customs pre-clearance center in Nassau, Bahamas, leads all other pre-clearance centers in currency seizures.

I also expect a slight up-tick in currency seizures with the the upcoming February 19 lunar new year and the traditional gifting of lucky money in red envelopes through China, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia. Customs can target their enforcement actions. If your lucky money is seized by 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).

On to the story:

NASSAU, Bahamas—U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nassau Preclearance facility seized approximately $845,000 in unreported currency from passengers traveling to the United States from the Bahamas in fiscal year 2014.

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 customs seizure red envelopeor higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP. If travelers have someone else carry the currency or monetary instrument for them, they must file a currency report for the entire amount with CBP. Failure to report may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

“We are very proud of our officers’ attention to detail and hard work that resulted in a significant total seizure amount in 2014,” said Robert Allen Smith, area port director for CBP Nassau Preclearance. “CBP’s goal is compliance with the currency reporting requirements, and the easiest way for travelers to hold on to their currency is to truthfully report it all to a CBP officer.”

CBP Preclearance operations allow for advance inspection of passengers and special coordination with law enforcement upon arrival in the United States. Through preclearance, the same immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections of international air passengers performed on arrival in the United States are instead completed before departure at foreign airports. Currently, preclearance operations exist at 15 foreign airports in six different countries, benefitting air passengers, airports, and air carriers, in the United States and abroad.

Our customs law firm handles currency/money seizures made by customs in Detroit and around the country. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles about money seizures by customs:

  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
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations

U.S. Customs Currency Seizures for Thanksgiving Travelers

Thanksgiving is apparently not the busiest travel day of the year, but it’s definitely one of the busiest. This year, with significant storm systems promising to delay flights at airports, Customs officers in the United States are going to have customs money seizuresome extra time on their hands detect which travelers are transporting more than $10,000 in money and not filing the required reports. We have written about some criteria Customs officers can use to target certain people for violating the currency reporting requirements in an article which you can READ BY CLICKING HERE.

You should protect yourself from seizure and ensure that you comply with all the laws related to entering or leaving the United States, but most especially for readers of this customs law blog, the currency reporting requirements for the United States. Increased travel for the holidays means increased opportunities for customs to seize your money for failing to report the transport of more than $10,000 into or out of the United States.

If it’s too late for you and you’ve had your money seized by Customs for failure to file a currency report, bulk cash smuggling, or a structuring violation, do not lose hope. It is possible for you to get your money back. You can find out more about how to get back seized currency by reading our article RESPONDING TO A CUSTOMS CURRENCY SEIZURE.

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, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

Please read these other articles:

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

The Government Wants Your Money

This is a Customs & Border Patrol story from KVOA, involving smugglers and a currency seizure. This is a little different than the usual customs money seizure case we handle or blog about, which is the seizures of money at the airport by customs (you can read our popular page on Responding to a Customs Money Seizure HERE). This story is not for a failure to report while crossing the border or arriving at an airport, but rather, the belief that it was connected to the drug trade and drug smuggling. This gave the officers an independent basis for the seizure, in which case the money does not have to be in excess of $10,000 to trigger seizure. This is the type of civil asset forfeiture our customs law firm does not typically involve ourselves in, but you can find more about why it’s so problematic HERE.

TUCSON – Tucson Sector Border Patrol arrested two undocumented immigrants and seized $10,000 after an agent stopped to assist a driver at State Route 85 near the Ajo area on Thursday, Nov. 6.

The agent offered his assistance after he noticed a vehicle pull over to the side of the highway. He found sugar sacks inside the vehicle, which according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are used for drug smuggling.

The agent then proceeded to do an inspection of the vehicle and the passengers, where he discovered the currency and the citizen status of the suspects.

The suspects were taken into custody and the vehicle and the $10,000 were processed for seizure.

If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact pageWe 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.

Read these other articles about customs money seizures:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Customs currency seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Customs currency seizure; 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. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  8. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  9. Customs currency seizure; Tuition Money Seized by Customs

Customs Counterfeit Seizure of Tablet Computers

As part of our ongoing efforts to analyze news in light of the customs laws and keep importers informed of the rights and obligations, we provide the below about a customs counterfeit seizure (original here) for alleged fake tablet computers with illegal counterfeit marks.

Many fail to grasp the importance of customs seizing counterfeit merchandise. In the picture below which is from the original customs news release had the caption “A tablet computer with counterfeit marks for SD.” Well, I guess… “Tarjeta SD” does translate to “SD Card” but I think the seizure for SD violative marks may have rested on more than just this word appearing inside the operating system. Or it may not have. Anyway, on to the story, with our further analysis below:

LAREDO, Texas – The Import Specialist Enforcement Team [“ISET”]  at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Laredo Port of Entry recently seized a commercial shipment of counterfeit electronic tablets valued at $1.1 million for allegedly infringing on the Amazon, Google, Micro SD and SD registered and Customs Counterfeit Seizurerecorded U.S. trademarks.

In the recently finalized enforcement action, a CBP import specialist at World Trade Bridge selected a shipment of polymer lithium operated screens, electronic tablets, for a secondary examination. During the examination, CBP import specialists observed that the electronic tablets bore the Amazon, Google, Micro SD and SD trademarks, all of which are trademark recorded with CBP. A legal review by CBP Headquarters Intellectual Property Rights Branch indicated the imported tablets bore potentially counterfeit marks. A license administrator for SD confirmed that the use of their trademark was unauthorized. CBP’s ISET determined on August 14 that the shipment of 11,540 electronic tablets lacked legal authorization from SD-3C LLC, Google Inc., and Amazon Technologies Inc., and that the tablets were counterfeit and subject to seizure. CBP subsequently seized the tablets, which carried a manufacturer’s suggested retail price, had the trademarks been genuine, of $1.1 million.

“This is a significant seizure of tablets found to be infringing on three separate trademarks recorded with CBP,” said Joseph Misenhelter, CBP port director, Laredo Port of Entry. “Seizures like these ensure that valuable intellectual property is protected from harm from would-be knockoff products and help restore the integrity of America’s economy.”

Like we have explained previously, this importer stands to face a hefty penalty — around $1 million — for this customs counterfeit seizure. We can help you if you are facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit trademarked merchandise. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

Call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or CONTACT US HERE. We are able to assist petitions for customs penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Consult a customs lawyer who is well acquainted with the laws enforced by the customs service and who can judge the legality of the transaction, by even getting a prospective ruling from customs in advance.

Please read these customs counterfeit seizure articles:

Holiday Weekend Customs Cash Seizures

Many customs cash seizures by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) are bound to happen all over the country this weekend at airports and border crossings. The increased amount of travel for labor day weekend will be a big Customs Cash Seizurefactor, but most cash will be seized because as it is the start of the academic year. Foreign exchange students, graduate students, PhD candidates, visiting professors,  researchers, and other professionals employed or sponsored by universities will be arriving in the United States with their tuition money or money for living expenses, and if they fail to report it to customs, it will be seized before they ever get a chance to use it. Get the details: Tuition Money Seized by Customs.

It does not matter that the money is legitimate. It only matters that there is a failure to make an accurate report to customs about how much money is transported. This reporting process usually starts by properly filling out your customs declaration form on arrival. Failure to properly report more than $10,000 transported into or out the country will result in a customs cash seizure. As we explained in previous articles, customs knows how to target arriving passengers to find people who might have money (Read: Targeting Customs Seizure Enforcement). If you are reading this after you already had a customs cash seizure then this article will tell you what to expect: Responding to a Customs currency seizure.

You can get your money back, but it will take time and effort. If you file a petition for remission, customs will require proof of the source of the money and its intended use. Customs has stringent requirements for getting your money back. They have specific documentation requirements depending on the country the money came from. Although the process is difficult and time consuming, it is almost always worth trying to get your money back. There is no customs cash seizure case that is hopeless, even if the documentation is missing or unavailable! For the best chances of success, you should hire a customs lawyer with a track record of successfully getting seized currency back from customs.

We are that experienced customs lawyer. If you have had your tuition money seized by customs, call us at (734) 855-4999 or contact us HERE because Great Lakes Customs Law can help.

Read these other articles about customs cash seizures:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Customs cash seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Customs cash seizure; 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. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  8. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  9. Customs cash seizure; Tuition Money Seized by Customs

Customs Seizure & Penalty for Counterfeits and Uncertified Engines

Importing is a tricky business that presents a trap for the novice. You may think you can import merchandise that can be used to make a few quick dollars on because of a high profit margin. The story below falls into that category.

This person attempted to import 300 Wii controllers, 400 USB convertors, and 200 small motorcycle engines. If successful, there was some money to be made. But the problem was the Wii controllers and USB converters were counterfeit, and the 200 small motorcycle engines lacked an important EPA certification.

The consequences? Customs seized the counterfeits and the small motorcycle engines are an importation contrary to law because of the failure to have certification by the EPA.

PORTAL, N.D. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers recently targeted a rail container at the port of Portal, North Dakota. In February 2014, CBP officers inspected the rail container and discovered merchandise that violated multiple laws and regulations. The merchandise consisted of approximately 300 counterfeit Wii remote controllers, 400 counterfeit USB converters and 200 small motorcycle engines that were not certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

CBP determined that the trademark was counterfeit on the Wii remote controllers and USB converters. As a result, CBP seized those items. The counterfeit merchandise had a Keep Calm and Contact Your Customs Attorneymanufacturer’s suggested retail price of $20,800. In addition, CBP seized the small engines that were found not to be certified, as required by the EPA. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the engines was $16,400.

“CBP continues to play a key role in Intellectual Property Rights enforcement,” said Brent Beeter, the Port Director in Portal. “CBP continues to stay focused on combating the illegitimate trade in counterfeit products.”

Stopping the flow of illicit goods is a Priority Trade Issue for CBP. The importation of counterfeit merchandise can damage the U.S. economy, and threaten the health and safety of the American people.

With the growth of foreign trade, unscrupulous companies have profited billions of dollars from the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods. To combat the illicit trade of merchandise violating laws relating to intellectual property rights (IPR), trademark and copyright holders may register with CBP through an online system. Such registration assists CBP officers and import specialists in identifying violative merchandise.

CBP’s IPR enforcement strategy is multi-layered and includes seizing violative merchandise at our borders, pushing the border “outward” through audits of suspect importers, cooperating with our international trading partners, and collaborating with industry and governmental agencies to enhance these efforts.

Many fail to grasp the importance of customs seizing counterfeit or uncertified merchandise. The reason might be a failure see the harm that it causes to the owner of the trademark, by confusing their purchasers and destroying a reputation for quality, or just not caring about the consequences in quest for making themselves some money. To those and others, I say: Consult a customs attorney who is well acquainted with the laws enforced by the customs service and who can judge the legality of the transaction, even getting advice from customs in advance.

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit trademarked merchandise or for importations contrary to law. We can help. You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, 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 petitions for customs penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles:

 

 

Customs Seizure & Penalties for Fake & Faulty Hairdryers

Many fail to grasp the importance of customs seizing counterfeit merchandise. The reason might be a failure see the harm that it causes to the owner of the trademark, by confusing their purchasers and destroying a reputation for quality. Another reason might be because they never got scammed into buying a product at full price… only to find out it is a worthless counterfeit. But sometimes counterfeits are dangerous.  Like electronics with a fake testing laboratory certifications, or those missing legally required safety features. The story that follows perfectly demonstrates the reasons why customs seizes counterfeits and often penalizes people who import them (original HERE):

HOUSTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have seized nearly 5,000 hair dryers as the required Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters that

Images from Seizure

protect consumers from electrical shock or electrocution hazards were missing. The hair dryers, which originated from China, have a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of almost $330,000. “This seizure is the latest example of the vigilance and attention to detail our officers pay to protect consumers from imported goods

Image for Seizure

that pose a dangerous risk,” said CBP Houston Area Port Director Dave Fluty. During an examination of the shipment, officers found the dryers missing the immersion protection plug and bearing a suspect trademark logo. Officers coordinated with Consumer Product Safety Commission and with the CBP Intellectual Property Rights Rights [sic] Branch, Regulations and Rulings, Office of International Trade to verify authenticity. The CBP IPR Branch confirmed the products were counterfeit, and a CPSC evaluation of product samples concluded the required immersion protection plug was missing resulting in the seizure of the entire shipment that contained more than 400 boxes of the faulty articles. According to CPSC, consumers should look for a large, rectangular-shaped plug at the end of the hair dryer cord indicating the presence of a GFCI. The certification mark of a recognized testing laboratory should also be visible on the hair dryer or on the hair dryer’s packaging.

The individual who caused the importation is now liable to customs for penalties for 1) importing counterfeits into the United States under 19 USC 1526 and 2) importations contrary to law under 19 USC 1595a, because there was no GFCI on the hairdryers. It will prove to be a costly mistake. As we have previously explained, the penalties for the trademark violation are equivalent to the MSRP of genuine articles, or in this case almost $330,000; the penalties for importations contrary to law is equivalent to the domestic value of the imported merchandise, which is likely far less than the $330,000 figure and equivalent to, more or less, the price actually paid for the merchandise. I am sure any penalty in this case will be for at least $330,000.

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit trademarked merchandise or for importations contrary to law. We can help. You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, 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 petitions for customs penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles:

 

CBP Seizes $28K+ in Unreported Currency

Customs seizes more currency from a traveler, this time at the Philadelphia airport. As reported by customs, more than $28,000 was seized from a Nigerian man travelling from London. 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.

The story told below is common among our currency seizure clients; their money was returned and they were not arrested, which indicates that customs did not suspect that the seized money was being transported as part of any criminal activity.  Here are the details from customs:

BALTIMORE — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized more than $25,000 Wednesday from a Nigerian man at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

The passenger, who arrived to BWI from London, United Kingdom, reported to a CBP officer that he possessed $6,000. During a secondary inspection, the traveler reported to a second CBP officer that he possessed $8,000 and 800 British Pounds.

During a baggage examination, CBP officers discovered $25,316 in U.S. Dollars, 1,385 in British Pounds and 450 in Euros, and a few Nigerian Naira. The combined currency totaled $28,280 in equivalent U.S. currency.

CBP officers seized the U.S. currency and Naira, and returned the Pounds and Euros to the man for humanitarian relief. CBP officers also advised the traveler how to petition for the return of his seized currency.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers may bring to, or take from the U.S.; however, federal law requires travelers to report to CBP amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign 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.

“Customs and Border Protection reminds all travelers that the easiest way to hold on to one’s currency is to truthfully report all of it to a CBP officer,” said Dianna Bowman, CBP Port Director for the Port of Baltimore.

If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/customs, 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 nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. CustomsKeep Calm and Declare Monetary Instruments Exceeding $10,000 USD
  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

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 2

Importing counterfeit merchandise into into the United States is not only illegal, but is something that U.S. Customs & Border Protection takes very seriously. Intercepting counterfeits is considered it to be a priority trade enforcement issue. For truly counterfeit imported merchandise, there are few opportunities to get the seizure remitted (to get the merchandise back from customs), and so it is forfeited (becomes property of the government). We discussed this Part I of Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties. But, forfeiture is often just the beginning of the story, because customs can and does penalize people for importing counterfeit merchandise.

When does customs issue a notice of penalty for importing counterfeits?

As matter of policy, customs issues a penalty when 3 criteria are met:

  1. The counterfeit mark is registered with the Patent and Trademark Office
  2. The counterfeit mark recorded with U.S. Customs & Border Protection
  3. The importer has no consent from the trademark holder to import the counterfeits

In all other situations, customs has the authority to issue a penalty, but may or may not, even if the merchandise is seized. It depends on the individual circumstances of the case.

What is a notice of penalty and who is liable?

The notice of penalty is sent from the Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture’s Office of U.S. Custom & Border Protection through the U.S. mail, usually certified. The notice of penalty is typically a 1 to 2 page document, that states what law or laws or regulations were allegedly violated, and based on the violation, it demands payment of a certain dollar amount.

The importer and anyone who causes, directs, or assists the importation (financially or otherwise) is liable to get the notice of penalty.

How is the penalty amount determined?

The penalty dollar amount is usually based on the maximum amount that customs can levy under the law for counterfeit violations; they are are not based on the price actually paid for the goods, but on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (“MSRP”) of the goods if they were genuine:

  • 1st Offense: the penalty is equal to up to the MSRP of genuine goods
  • 2nd (or more) Offense: the penalty is equal to twice the MSRP of genuine goods

For example, if you are importing counterfeit jeans that cost $5 each, but which have a MSRP for genuine jeans of  $95, customs customs uses the $95 price in its calculation. In this example, if 100 pairs of jeans were imported, the penalty for a 1st offense is up to $9,500 (not $500). For a 2nd offense, the penalty is up to $19,000 (not $500 or $1,00).

Does customs ever reduce a penalty?

You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

A failure to pay the penalty, or the mitigated penalty, will result in the referral of the matter for collection through the U.S. attorney. Customs may sue the importer or the person providing assistance in federal court and get a judgment against them. This allows the government to lien property, garnish assets and bank accounts, and seize property to satisfy the judgment.

Obviously, the best course of action is to file a petition, get a reduced penalty, and pay it.

Is there a way to reduce the penalty from customs?

Keep Calm Petition MemeYes, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs, it is possible for a penalty reduction of anywhere from 10% to 30% for a first or second offense. There would have to mitigating and no aggravating factors to achieve that result.

A standard disposition with aggravating factors, or for a third offense, may still garner a reduction of 50% to 80%, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs.

It is possible, and our law firm has been able to obtain complete cancellation of the penalty even in cases where there are still grounds for a technical violation of the law (some history of our success is HERE). Of course, results will vary from case to case, and no result could be guaranteed. Customs has maintains a list of mitigating factors and aggravating factors that it looks for, and which should part of the argument and analysis of any petition that is filed for them; without a careful and thoughtful analysis of those factors that customs looks for, you may end up pay more than necessary.

If you have had your merchandise seized or have received a notice of penaalty from customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer about the possibility of getting your penalty reduced, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions and in penalty cases by customs nationwide.

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1

Often, people and businesses can knowingly or unknowingly import counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States. The majority of these types of importations we encounter for clients are Internet purchases from China, such as purses, videos/DVDs, guitars, clothing,  electronics and accessories, but they can really be any type of product and from any country. Sometimes people know the merchandise is counterfeit but other times they do not have any suspicion, or in some circumstances truly know that what they are importing is not counterfeit. Even if ignorant about the merchandise being counterfeit, if it really is counterfeit then the property is still subject to seizure and forfeiture by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

What is a counterfeit or trademark violation?

Counterfeit merchandise is merchandise that “bears a trade-mark owned by [someone in] the United States, and registered in the . . . [Patent and Trademark Office].” The counterfeit mark can be on the “merchandise, or the label, sign, print, package, wrapper, or receptacle” itself. 19 USC 1526(a). A counterfeit mark is a spurious trademark that is identical to, or substantially indistinguishable from, a registered trademark. 19 CFR 133.21(a). If you do not have permission of the trademark owner to import the merchandise, it’s illegal to import it.

Because the counterfeit merchandise is illegal, it is subject to seizure and forfeiture by U.S. Customs & Border Protection under most circumstances (usually it must also be recorded with CBP per 19 CFR 133.21(b)). 19 USC 1526(b) and (e). This means that customs can take the suspected counterfeit merchandise and destroy it, or if they can obliterate the counterfeit marks and get the consent of the trademark owner, then customs can give it to charity, give it to a government agency for its own use, or sell it at public auction.

Is it possible to get the seized merchandise released?

Before customs can destroy the counterfeit/trademark violations, give it away, or sell it, they must first give the importer a chance to respond. Since October 2015, at the time of detention or even after seizure, the importer has a right to request samples of seized merchandise from CBP. After merchandise is seized, Customs through its Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures (FP&F) office, will send a “notice of seizure” of the counterfeit merchandise to the importer of record. The importer then has several options, among those are the ability to file a petition for remission of forfeiture with FP&F. In this petition, the importer has opportunity to demonstrate that there are no counterfeit/trademark violations involved with the import of the merchandise.

Alternatively, the importer could argue in the petition for remission to customs that some exception to seizure and forfeiture applies. If the importer can prove that the goods are not counterfeit, then the seizure would be remitted and the merchandise released to the custody of the importer. A similar result is possible in certain other circumstances, like if they are permitted genuine, gray market goods, or are for personal use and accompanying a traveler entering the U.S., or if the trademark owner consents to the importation and the counterfeit marks are destroyed.

My merchandise was seized and forfeited as counterfeit. Am I in any other trouble?

If you have merchandise seized by customs and either lose your opportunity to get the merchandise back, abandon the merchandise, or ignore the notice of seizure, it may not be the end of trouble for the importer. In general, customs has the authority to fine or penalize anyone who violates the laws enforced by customs. This means that, weeks or months after the property is seized and forfeited, you may get notice of penalty in the mail from customs that demands payment of thousands of dollars in penalties! It could also mean you get a letter from the trademark holder threatening you with further legal action.

In Part 2 of this series, we discuss when and how customs can assess a monetary penalty after the counterfeit property is seized and forfeited.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations, 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 petitions for customs seizures nationwide.