Customs officers seize cash at land-border crossings just like they seize cash at airports; whether air, land, or sea, Customs has authority to seize unreported, structured, or smuggled cash. It happens at large ports (like San Diego-Tijuana), but also at smaller, sleepier, less densely populated ports, like the Massena Port of Entry in New York (pop. 12,883).
Here’s the full story, with my comments in red, from CBP:
On September 27, 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers at the Massena Port of Entry seized approximately $24,000 from a Cambodian citizen who violated the federal currency reporting requirements.
During a secondary examination, the traveler was asked if they had any currency to declare and stated they only possessed pocket change. [That it was secondary inspection means they already had a chance to declare the cash, but did not.]During the vehicle inspection, a large amount of currency was discovered in the center console of the vehicle. Additionally, it was revealed that the traveler had also concealed more currency within their front trouser waistband. [Combined with a failure to report, the cash being concealed within the console and wasitband will allow Customs to presume it was hidden with intent to smuggle it.]The undeclared currency was a combination of U.S. and Canadian funds and totaled approximately $24,000 U.S. dollars after currency conversion.
“This currency seizure illustrates the importance of travelers complying with all U.S. laws, including federal currency reporting regulations, and also highlights the consequences of noncompliance,” said Port Director Robert Dwyer. “Currency seizures are a direct reflection of CBP’s continued commitment to enforce all U.S. laws at our nation’s borders.”
The undeclared currency was seized pursuant to Title 31, U.S. Code, Section 5317 for violation of Title 31, U.S. Code, Section 5316, failing to declare over $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments. [No mention of 31 USC 5332, the bulk cash smuggling statute. But, often these news releases are not as precise as the actual notice of seizure]. The traveler was subsequently refused admission to the U.S. and returned to Canada. [The traveler is lucky s/he did not also get arrested, as concealing and not reporting cash is punishable as a crime, in addition to seizure of the cash itself.]
It is not against the law to carry large amounts of currency in or out of the United States. Arriving or departing travelers may carry as much currency as they wish. However, federal law requires that travelers who possess $10,000 or more in currency or other monetary instruments to declare this to a CBP officer at an airport, seaport, or land border crossing where they enter or leave the country.
Have you had cash seized by Customs in New York?
The process of getting seized cash from Customs in New York back is long and complicated; most importantly, legitimate source and intended use must be proven. If CBP seized cash from you, you can learn more about the process from our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.