The pace of customs currency seizure news releases has declined since the government shutdown, but today Customs released some details on a recent currency seizure at sea. This is different than a lot of currency seizure stories posted here which usually happen in airports or at land border crossings. Let’s look at the details, with my emphasis in bold and my comments in brackets:
San Juan, Puerto Rico — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $30,007 in unreported currency last Friday from a passenger departing on board the M/V Caribbean Fantasy Ferry destined to Santo Domingo, DR. The seizure occurred during routine outbound examination of passengers at the Pan American Dock West in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Dennis Mota-Rodriguez, 50, resident of San Juan, failed to accurately declare having in his possession more than $10,000 [Editor’s note: read about the reporting requirement HERE]. CBP officers conducted further examination of Mota and his belongings and discovered money concealed within a book agenda, hidden within clothing in his checked luggage and wrapped on his person, held by a girdle. [Editor’s note: any concealment, whether in luggage, backpack, etc., so long as it is done with an intent to evade the reporting requirement can be a violation of the bulk cash smugglinglaws].
The currency was seized under bulk cash smuggling laws. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents arrested Mota-Rodriguez and will proceed with an investigation. [Editor’s note: That’s right, some individuals are charged with criminal, and not just civil, violations of the law.]
“Transportation of currency is not illegal. However, if carrying more than $10,000 through our borders, the currency must be reported to CBP,” said Juan Hurtado, San Juan area port director. “Travelers who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of having their currency seized, and may potentially face criminal charges.”
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. [Editor’s note: technically this is wrong, the reporting requirement is triggered if the amount is more than $10,000, not $10,000 “or higher”].
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.
If this guy wasn’t up to anything illegal, then this was totally avoidable. He would have had to file the currency report, and demonstrate a lawful source for the money and lawful intended use. But he could have taken it with him had he only not hid the money and given Customs what they needed. In myopinion, though, sometimes Customs gets a little overzealous or unfair in their enforcement; however, I think the vast majority of customs officers do their job well. 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:
- Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
- Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
- Structuring currency imports and exports
- Is it $10,000 per person? Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
- Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
- Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
- Responding to a Customs currency seizure
- How do I get my seized money back?
- Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
- How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?