There was a huge cash seizure at the Blue Water Bridge that connects Port Huron, Michigan with Sarnia, Ontario, which is all part of the Detroit Field Office of CBP.
The story is interesting, of course, not only because it involves more than $1 million in cash but for some other details given.
First, he left the United States and was turned back when trying to enter Canada. This means he violated 31 USC 5316 when he left the country without reporting the money.
If Canada had let him enter at this point, CBP would have never found out (unless CBSA found out, and then reported back to CBP).
But things didn’t work out like that. He was refused entry into Canada and sent back through US Customs.
And that’s when the trouble started. CBP probably had a heightened level of suspicion after his refusal from Canada, and so they asked him some questions; one of them was, “Do you have any currency or monetary instruments to declare?”
He said he did not. It is alleged, then, the officer gave him a chance to amend his declaration. So he then declared $990,000. Even if this report was accurate (which it turns out it wasn’t), the initial violation already occurred when he left the country without reporting it.
At this point, of course, CBP steps in and starts counting the money to see if his report is accurate and, also no doubt, is interested to know why the man is traveling with so much cash (it’s not illegal in-and-of itself, but it’s certainly unusual).
Here’s the story:
PORT HURON, Mich.— On August 22, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations at the Blue Water Bridge seized over $1 million in currency from a U.S. citizen after he failed to report the funds to CBP officers.The male traveler and his family arrived in Port Huron after being refused entry into Canada. He initially denied carrying more than $10,000 to officials. Officers gave the traveler a chance to amend his declaration, which he modified to $990,000. Further inspection by CBP officers led to the discovery of two safes containing $1,096,584.
“There is no limit as to how much currency travelers can import or export as long as it is accurately declared to CBP,” said acting Port Director Geoffrey Stoffel.
Currency reporting rules require travelers to declare when they transport more than $10,000 in monetary instruments when travelling into or outside of the United States. Violators may face criminal penalties and forfeiture of the undisclosed funds.
In Detroit and Port Huron, I can typically resolve a cash seizure case in about 90 days from the date of seizure to the date of the return of (most of) the funds.
However, there are special rules for property that is worth more than $500,000. 19 USC 1610 says that if it’s worth more than $500,000, the money must be judicially forfeited. However, CAFRA still is going to apply and as such, a notice of seizure should be issued within the typical 60 day (but in certain cases, no later than 90 day) time-frame.
Even if the parties choose a petition, the case is going to be decided by CBP officials and Treasury Department officials. CBP policy says anything valued at more than $100,000 gets taken out of the hands of the local port-level officials (here, Detroit FP&FO) and instead goes to the Office of Regulations & Rulings at CBP HQ in Washington, DC.
The penalty, for a simple “failure to report” or inaccurate report, would be somewhere north of $50,000. If it’s considered bulk cash smuggling, which seems like a likely allegation in this case (given that he first passed through CBP without reporting it upon exiting the country), then the penalty can be 50% of the total amount seized.
The bottom line is, all the procedural options, complications, and safeguards surrounding seizures valued at more than $500,000, means this case is going to take more than the typical 90 days to resolve.