Customs in Philadelphia Seizes Money for Violation of Currency Reporting Laws

A customs news release relates the tale of two travelers who had their money seized by customs at the airport for a failure to report the currency they were transporting. As you will read, the father and son were travelling together and therefore customs lumped the currency each of them were carrying together. The story does not explain how much cash was found on each person individually, but it could have a bearing on whether or not seizure was proper and even if it was, it could affect the penalty that is owed through the customs mitigation guidelines for currency seizures.

This story raises questions in my mind of structuring and who needs to make the report when more than one person is transporting more than $10,000 across the border. I would not be surprised if customs also alleges a structuring violation in the CAFRA notice of seizure document. These folks should hire a customs lawyer to help them get their seized currency back from customs. On to the story:

(Tuesday, December 31, 2013) Philadelphia – An Israeli father and son learned a very difficult lesson Friday at Philadelphia International Airport after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $27,648 that they failed to truthfully report to officers.

The two men, who arrived from Cancun, Mexico, repeatedly reported to CBP officers that they possessed about $6,000. CBP officers conducted a currency verification and determined that the pair were in possession of $19,020 in U.S. dollars and 5,850 in Israeli shekels for a combined total of $27,648 in U.S. or equivalent foreign currency. [EDITOR’S NOTE: The currency reporting requirement applies to US and foreign currency. Foreign currency is counted in USD at the prevailing exchange rate, so you have to be careful].

Neither man was criminally charged. [EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a civil customs money seizure so they can file a petition to try to get get their money back.] CBP officers seized the currency and released both men to continue their visit.

There is no limit to how much currency that travelers can bring into, or take out of the United States. Travelers are required to formally report amounts of $10,000 or more  in U.S. dollars, equivalent foreign currency, or other monetary instruments. [EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is, like many news releases, incorrect. The reporting requirement is only for more than $10,000 U.S., equivalent, or other instruments]

“CBP derives no great pleasure from seizing travelers’ currency. However, there are consequences for failing to comply with U.S. currency reporting laws,” said Tarance Drafts, acting CBP port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “We hope that all travelers are honest with CBP officers and truthfully declare currency or other things that they are bringing to the U.S.”

Privacy laws prohibit CBP from releasing names as neither subject was criminally charged.

CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international passengers and cargo, and searches for terrorist weapons, illicit narcotics, unreported currency, counterfeit merchandise, and prohibited agriculture and other products.

Too bad for these folks, but they can act quickly, hire a customs lawyer, and respond appropriately to try to get their money released. 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:

  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?