There have not been many news releases by CBP about cash seizures, but just because it’s not hitting the news doesn’t mean anything has changed. For example, CBP in Detroit is still seizing cash at Detroit Metro Airport (and of course, to a lesser extent, the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel). To get a glimpse of their activity, we can look to the notices of seizure and intent to forfeit postings that the government is required to make on the foreiture.gov website.
Once CBP takes money, there are several ways to try to get it back. Most of these are shown on the election of proceedings form. If they can’t successfully get the money back, or they choose to file a claim, the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit is published.
From mid-December until now, here are all the cases where money was seized and the notice has been published, along with my comments on each case:
PUBLICATION/POSTING START: January 12, 2018
PUBLICATION/POSTING END: February 11, 2018
DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM: March 13, 2018
2018380700037501-001-0000, Seized on 01/05/2018; At the port of DETROIT, MI; U.S. CURRENCY RETAINED; 323; EA; Valued at $31,261.00; For violation of 31USC5316, 31USC5317
Above, the cash was seized at Detroit Metro on 1/5, and the posting was made on January 12. Typically, CBP sends out a notice of seizure letter to those with a known interest in the money and then, if not responded to within 35 days, the notice gets published online. So this short period of time between seizure and publication only makes sense to me if the person who had their money seized abandoned the cash or, immediately they filed a claim.
PUBLICATION/POSTING START: January 05, 2018
PUBLICATION/POSTING END: February 04, 2018
DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM: March 06, 2018
2017380700124801-001-0000, Seized on 05/26/2017; At the port of DETROIT, MI; U.S. CURRENCY RETAINED; 263; EA; Valued at $26,200.00; For violation of 31USC5317, 31USC5316, 31USC5324, 31CFR1010.340(A)
Above is a more expected situation, where the money was seized in May 2017 (for failure to report and for structuring), but the first publication of the intent to forfeit was not until January. This tells me that it is very likely that the administrative resolution was unsuccessful (e.g., they filed an administrative petition and it was unsuccessful). That usually means a bad lawyer, no lawyer, or insufficient documentation showing legitimate source and use of the seized cash. Some people give up at this point, which is usually a poor decision. You’ve got to keep trying and file a claim, but you’ll meet with the same fate unless you get an experienced attorney.
PUBLICATION/POSTING START: December 29, 2017
PUBLICATION/POSTING END: January 28, 2018
DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM: February 27, 2018
2017380700064601-001-0000, Seized on 01/25/2017; At the port of DETROIT, MI; U.S. CURRENCY RETAINED; 250; EA; Valued at $25,000.00; For violation of 19USC1607, 19USC162.45, 19USC983(A)(2)
The also looks like the administrative options failed. But this one puzzles me another reason, because the reasons listed for seizure don’t appear to be right. All of the law or regulations cited there are for the summary forfeiture statute, which only describes the process used for forfeiting property that is valued at less than $500,000. In other words, those laws do not describe a crime but instead just direct the government to publish notice in a certain way. It looks like someone at CBP sent the wrong information in for publishing.
PUBLICATION/POSTING START: December 15, 2017
PUBLICATION/POSTING END: January 14, 2018
DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM: February 13, 2018
2018380100011101-001-0000, Seized on 11/09/2017; At the port of DETROIT, MI; US CURRENCY; 878; EA; Valued at $20,106.00; For violation of 18USC981(A)(1)(C), 18USC1956(C)(7)(A), 18USC1961(1)(D),21USC841,21USC881,, 21USC846
2018380700026301-001-0000, Seized on 12/01/2017; At the port of DETROIT, MI; U.S. CURRENCY RETAINED; 520; EA; Valued at $48,293.00; For violation of 31USC5316, 31USC5317, 31USC5332
Finally, the first of the two listed here was seized not for a failure to report the cash, but instead because the money was suspected to be involved in some illegal activity. The case number tells me that this occurred at one of the land border crossings in Detroit, where such a situation is more likely to occur than at the Detroit Metro Airport.
The final case shows the money was seized on December 1, and the notice was published on December 15. That tells me that the person, rather than electing administrative proceedings, chose to file a claim and set their case up for decision by a judge. Typically, that’s a bad idea; it’s usually better to give administrative remedies a chance first, but not always. It could be someone made this decision without a lawyer, or hired a lawyer who doesn’t know what they’re doing.