$39K in Unreported Currency by U.S. Customs at Houston Airport

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes a lot of money. In the last fiscal year, customs seized more than $81 million dollars in “undeclared or illicit currency.” On June 6, Customs seized over $39,000 in cash from a traveler arriving from Nicaragua. The story says it was seized for a “failure to properly report currency” exceeding $10,000, however, the fact that the money was tucked away in the pockets of 3 different pairs of jeans could give Customs enough facts to allege that it was concealed for the purposes of evading the report requirement — otherwise known as bulk cash smuggling.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, June 6, seized over $39,000 after a traveler failed to properly report the money as required by U.S. law.

Customs Seizes $39k from Nicaraguan Traveler
Some of the money was stored in the pocket of the traveler’s clothing.

The traveler, a 39-year-old U. S. citizen, arrived from Managua, Nicaragua and was enroute to Los Angeles, California.

While conducting an enforcement operation, CBP Officers encountered the traveler, and asked if he was transporting more than $10,000 in either currency or other monetary instruments. The traveler reported he was transporting $7,800; however, a search of his luggage discovered U.S. currency tucked in the pockets of three pair of jeans packed in his suitcase. The total amount of currency seized was $ 39,162.

The currency was seized for failure to properly report currency in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000.

“International travelers are provided multiple opportunities to truthfully report the amount of currency they are carrying,” said CBP Port Director Charles Perez. “Those who refuse to comply with the federal reporting requirements face the risk of having that currency seized.

“There is absolutely no limit to the amount of currency a traveler can bring into or take out of the United State,” Perez added. “The only requirement is to report amounts that reach or exceed $10,000.”

Travelers report currency by completing FinCEN Form 105 and giving it to a CBP officer. Currency is not limited to U.S. currency, but includes all negotiable monetary instruments such as Traveler’s Checks, money orders and securities. A complete list of negotiable monetary instruments is available on FinCEN Form 105.

Some of that money might be connected to illegal activity but a lot of that money is also from innocent, arriving travelers, confused about the currency reporting requirement. This appears to be one of those innocent cases where, for whatever reason (be it panic, ignorance, or unfair questioning), he only reported $7,800 instead of the nearly $40,000 that he was carrying. Because Customs has not disclosed his name, it sounds as though criminal charges were not filed yet.

If you have had your currency seized, please 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