Tag: airport cash seizure

A pile of $20 bills on a table.

$16k Dulles Airport Currency Seizure by CBP

A Dulles airport currency seizure of $16,000 by CBP was reported by Customs this week. The seizure

A pile of $20 bills on a table, similar to the Dulles airport currency seizure case mentioned in this article
A Dulles airport currency seizure resulted in the seizure of $16,000 by CBP.

occurred last Thursday, when a woman traveling to Ghana was stopped and searched by Customs when she failed to report traveling with $6,951 more than she had.

According to the story, the currency was found in both her luggage and on her person; CBP may use this as a basis to allege not only a failure to report, but also bulk cash smuggling. If Dulles alleges bulk cash smuggling as reason they seized the money in the notice of seizure, this lady will almost certainly be looking at a huge loss of money as a penalty, even if she can prove it came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use. This is because bulk cash smuggling permits Customs to keep more of the money as a penalty.

Here is the excerpt from the full Customs Dulles airport currency seizure story:

A woman boarding a flight to Ghana was selected for questioning by CBP officers who were conducting an outbound enforcement operation on an international flight. The woman completed a financial form, reporting $10,000, however; a total of $16,951 in U.S. and foreign currency was discovered on her person and in her luggage. CBP officers seized the $16,951, returned the equivalent of $192 in foreign currency as humanitarian relief, and advised her how to petition for the return of the rest of the currency.

As I’ve said before, don’t take legal advice from Customs. Depending on the source of the money and the circumstances of the seizure filing an administrative petition might not be her best option; it could be that filing a claim, making an offer in compromise, or filing a petition in the federal court are the best options. If you’ve experienced a Customs Dulles airport currency seizure use our trusted legal road-map of a customs money seizure or contact us for a free currency seizure consultation!

A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs

What happens to money and property seized by Customs?

Once U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes your money or property it can eventually be forfeited (lost forever to the government); it doesn’t matter if it’s merchandise or cash/currency transported without being reported, structured, or smuggled. Before the property is forfeited the owner can try to get it back (remitted).

But once property is forfeited, it forever becomes property of the United States Government. As a government attorney once told me, it goes to that big government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I don’t think he was joking.

What happens after property is seized by Customs?

First, appraisement: CBP must give anything seized a “domestic value.” This is usually measured by

A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs
A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs (click to elarge)

“price at which such or similar property is freely offered for sale at the time and place of appraisement, in the same quantity or quantities as seized, and in the ordinary course of trade.” Although an oversimplification, this is basically the fair-market value of the seized property at the time and place of seizure.

Customs conducts an inspection of the goods to determine if they are admissible (i.e., whether they can be allowed entry into the U.S.). Certain things, like narcotics, unsafe electrical components, or lead-tainted children’s toys are inadmissable.

What happens after property is forfeited by Customs?

If the goods are admissible, but the importer could not get the property back at the agency or through federal district court, then Customs can:

  1. Destroy it. If Customs determines it violates copyright laws, has no commercial value, or is a safety risk or violates U.S. law, the port director is authorized destroy the forfeited merchandise. If this doesn’t apply, it can be disposed elsewhere.
  2. Sell it. If the merchandise is sold, Customs will notify the importer, the consignee, the shipper, and the warehouse transferee of the sale no less than 30 days beforehand and then hold a public auction, sometimes online, overseen by the port director. This includes perishables, agricultural products, alcoholic beverages, and vehicles. Counterfeit goods may be sold with the permission of the U.S. trademark holder once the counterfeit mark has been obliterated and at least 90 days after forfeiture, provided that no government agency or charitable institution has a need for them. For example, customs has donated seized fossils to the University of Michigan in the past.
  3. Use it. Last, the government can use it. The products must be unclaimed or abandoned, which means nonpayment of duties and 6 months in Customs custody. The port director must give a 30 day notice, as above. Afterward, the items belong to Customs and they can decide to to use it or distribute it to another government agency.

Item 3 is true for seized money/currency. At the completion of all procedures, seized and forfeited money transfers to the U.S. government. If your money was seized by Customs, read our Customs Money Seizure Legal Guide.