If you’re going to Mexico with $198,902 and no plans to report it, you should probably take a toothbrush (so you can brush your teeth in jail) and a credit card for when you get out, because you’re going to lose the money and be accused of crimes.
That’s the lesson that should have been learned by this anonymous individual who attempting to take the nearly $200,000 from the United States to Mexico, for unknown reasons (but really, we all know it’s drug related, right?)
This story provides an opportunity to respond to a frequently asked question:
Question: “If I am traveling with money, do I need to bring proof of it being legal money?”
Answer: Generally, no, you don’t. You only need to fill out the FinCen 105 form if you are transporting (or causing to be transported) more than $10,000. But, that’s only going to get you out of a violation of the Currency and Monetary Instrument Reporting laws (Title 31).
If CBP still thinks you’re committing some other crime, like drug trafficking, money laundering, or something else, they can still seize the money (whether you filed a FinCen 105 form or not) because they think you’re doing something else wrong. If you have a criminal or arrest history significant for these types of crimes, the odds of seizure go up dramatically.
But, on to the text of the story from our friends in Pharr, Texas, at CBP:
PHARR, Texas—U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations (OFO) at the Pharr International Bridge intercepted $198,902 in undeclared currency from a traveler heading to Mexico.
“CBP officers conduct outbound enforcement operations to protect against unreported exportations of bulk U.S. currency, which often can be proceeds from alleged illicit activity, or currency that funds transnational criminal organizations,” said Port Director Carlos Rodriguez, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry.
On April 4, 2023, CBP officers conducting outbound enforcement operations at the Pharr International Bridge encountered a white Jeep driving southbound to Mexico. A CBP officer referred the vehicle for further inspection which included screening by a canine team. After physically inspecting the vehicle, officers discovered nine bundles of currency totaling $198,902 in various denominations concealed within the vehicle.
CBP OFO arrested the driver, seized the currency and vehicle, and the case remains under investigation by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).