Recently, customs in Chicago made a large seizure of jewelry from an arriving passenger for a failure to declare jewelry that was purchased abroad. The full story, which I quote below, is a lesson in the penalties for violations of 19 USC 1497, which is the law that allows seizures and penalties for a passenger’s failure to declare jewelry and other imported merchandise.
We have written more extensively on what a failure to declare is, and what the consequences are, at this link: Failure to declare under 19 USC 1497.
This failure to declare will prove to be a costly mistake. There are three things the importer must do to get out of this mess:
- Pay the original duties ($30,043.75)
- Pay any penalty levied (maximum $691,553)
- Get the jewelry back (petition for remission after the notice of seizure)
The penalty will, no doubt, be issued for the full amount allowed by law which is the value of the seized property. The importer will have 60 days to either pay the full penalty or request a penalty reduction based on customs mitigation guidelines for failure to declare. Those guidelines basically state that for commercial violations of this type he should end up paying anywhere from 3 to 8 times the duty that was owed. That means somewhere between $90,000 and $240,000.
If ever I saw a person in dire need of a customs lawyer, this is it. If you’re out there and reading this give me a call at (734) 855-4999.
CHICAGO —U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport seized a cache of jewelry worth almost $700,000 on Thursday. A 65-year-old U.S. citizen was selected for examination by CBP officers as he arrived from Paris via a flight London.
The passenger claimed nothing on his Automated Passport Control (APC) declaration, his written declaration and confirmed to CBP officers that he had not made any purchases or acquisitions on his trip. Upon examination of his baggage, CBP officers noticed receipts for various boxes containing what appeared to be high end jewelry, invoices and receipts. Some lose jewelry was discovered concealed in pockets of articles of clothing within his luggage. A total of 29 high value jewelry pieces were identified.
Upon discovery of the jewelry, the passenger provided CBP officers with the values of each item and stated that he works as jewelry distributor in the United States. Computer checks indicated that the passenger has imported jewelry in the past on several occasions.
The total estimated domestic value of all 29 items is $691,553. The jewelry was seized under 19 USC 1497, failure to declare. The passenger faces a maximum penalty equal to the domestic value of the undeclared merchandise and forfeiture of the jewelry. Had the passenger made a proper declaration, he would have paid $30,043.75 in duty.
As mentioned above, the importer can respond to customs’ notice of seizure and the subsequent notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to return the property and reduce the penalty based on the presence of certain mitigating factors that customs particularly looks for. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. If the person fails to pay the penalty, the government may bring a lawsuit against them in federal district court to recover the penalty in the form of a judgment, after which point the government can lien property, garnish bank accounts, and seize property.
If you had a failure to declare jewelry to Customs or had other property seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.