Tag: bulk cash smuggling

Baltimore Customs Seizes $16,000 in Unreported Money

Another currency seizure news release from Boston, which is reported here. As can be seen by the facts, the reason for the violation here was a misreport of the amount of currency being transported, which always includes all currency, whether U.S. or foreign, and also a concealment (i.e., smuggling) of another $6,200 wrapped in personal items.

Even though the couple was forthright in declaring $10,000 of their currency, all of the currency included the $10,000 was seized. This case is useful in presenting common issues concerning currency seizures, such as:

We have a lot more information on currency seizures that we make available on our Currency Seizure page and on this blog. Here are the facts in this case, as realted by CBP:

Baltimore — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) seized $16,000 yesterday from a Nigerian couple for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

The passengers, who arrived to BWI from London and were destined for Essex, Md., repeatedly declared possessing only $10,000 and presented two envelopes to CBP officers containing the equivalent of $10,345 in U.S. and foreign currency. CBP officers explained the currency reporting requirements and again asked the couple if they were carrying any more currency or monetary instruments to which the passengers stated they were not. While examining the passenger’s luggage, CBP officers discovered another envelope wrapped in clothing that contained $6,200 bringing the total to $16,545.

If you have had your money seized by Customs, please contact our office today and speak to an attorney experienced in customs law and currency seizures by calling (734) 855-4999, or e-mail us through our contact page.

 

San Juan CBP Seizes $43,000 in Unreported Money

CBP reports on recent current seizures in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, in part stating:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized more than $43,500 in unreported currency at the Luis Munoz Marin Airport last Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in two separate incidents.

While conducting outbound operations on a JetBlue flight destined to the Dominican Republic, a CBP K9 alerted to a passenger, who was then interviewed by CBP officers. During the interview, the passenger stated he was transporting $5,000. During his cbp_tapecarry-on inspection various bundles of currency were found hidden in different locations. A total of $21,378 in currency was found hidden, including inside his socks. The currency was seized.

Departing on the same flight, a different passenger was informed about the currency reporting procedures in his native Spanish language, and he stated that he was transporting $2,000. Examination of the passenger’s carry-on bag revealed additional bundles of U.S. currency, which were concealed inside his clothing. The passenger also failed to report around $9,000 concealed inside clothing on his checked luggage. The total amount of U.S. currency seized was $22,160.

(Emphasis added).

This is interesting because it demonstrates that the currency reporting law applies equally to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Moreover, it should be noted that the fact the the people in these cases hid the money inside articles of clothing will also give rise to additional grounds for seizure, beyond mere failure to file a report, of bulk cash smuggling by virtue of concealing it.
If you have had currency seized, please read our article about responding to a currency seizure to better inform yourself of the process. You should contact our office in order to discussion your legal matter further, the prospect of getting your money returned, potential penalties, and the types of evidence needed in order to get your money back. We can be reached at (734) 855-4999 or by the methods shown on our contact page, and are able to help get your money back no matter your location.

 

Customs seizure of smuggled money in Arizona

A news release from Customs & Border Protection goes into some detail on a recent money seizure in Arizona. The release says that Customs officer’s seized $10,744 in unreported money/currency from a 22-year old guy with a valuable pair of shoes (see below. sometimes  I just like re-posting these new releases for the pictures they provide of smuggling attempts).

U.S. Customs andCustoms Seizure Arizona Shoe Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents conducting outbound inspections referred a 22-year-old man for further inspection. During a search of the man, officers found $10,744 in U.S. currency concealed in his shoes. The currency was seized and the man was arrested and referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Individuals arrested may be charged by complaint, the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity, which raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent unless and until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unlike the usual cases I handled where the unreported seized money is part of a civil seizure, this apparently was a criminal seizure. While any violation can give rise to criminal penalties, usually if there is no suspicion of criminal activity the assistant U.S. attorney will not press charges.

In fact, before sometimes before a person is a released after being detained for bulk cash smuggling, a failure to report currency over $10,000, or a structuring violation the seizing officer will call and explain the circumstances to the assistant U.S. attorney, who may either accept, defer, decline prosecution. Of course, if prosecution is initially declined, it would not prevent the government from changing their mind and pursuing criminal charges should they find new evidence in the future.

The risk of criminal prosecution, and the complicated process of actually getting your money through the petition process, is a good reason to give our office a call at (734) 855-4999, or e-mail us if you have had your money seized by Customs, even if you feel it was innocently done. We provide more reasons for hiring an attorney in our tutorial on the currency seizure process.

Customs seizes $360,000 in Unreported Money

A May 3rd news release from Customs & Border Protection details a recent money seizure in Texas. The release says that Customs officer’s seized $360,025 in unreported currency from a male Mexican national when attempting to exit the U.S. and enter Mexico.

What is interesting about this story is there is what is not said, because these news releases usually give some indication that they suspect there was some connection with illegal drug activity. This, however, only says what I have written about many times; that a failure to report currency over $10,000 (failure to report), or concealing more than $10,000 with an intent to evade the reporting requirement (bulk cash smuggling) is illegal.

Another curious aspect is that the $360,000 was concealed in 36 separate packages, which means that each package had about $10,000 in it. I don’t know if that’s just a convenient amount to put in a package, or if there were supposed to be 36 different transactions taking the money across the border by different people or at different times.  That would be a structuring violation, anyway.

Here is the full story:

The vehicle, driven by a 23-year-old male Mexican citizen from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was selected for further inspection and was referred to secondary. During the process of the secondary inspection, officers noted irregularities within the vehicle and further inspection revealed multiple hidden packages of unreported U.S. currency. Officer discovered and seized a total of 36 packages, which totaled $360,025 in unreported U.S. currency and also seized the vehicle.

CBP-OFO arrested the male traveler and subsequently released him to the custody of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents for further investigation.

“This outstanding seizure of unreported currency was accomplished due to excellent teamwork from our CBP-OFO officers,” said Efrain Solis Jr., port director, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas. “People who fail to declare currency in excess of $10,000 entering or leaving the country will face penalties or be subject to having CBP seize all of the unreported currency.”

It is not a crime to carry more than $10,000, but it is a federal offense not to declare currency or monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or more to a CBP officer upon entry or exit from the U.S. or to conceal it with intent to evade reporting requirements. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest. An individual may petition for the return of currency seized by CBP officers, but the petitioner must prove that the source and intended use of the currency was legitimate.

And I always recommend that anyone whose currency has been seized should contact a lawyer to draft a petition for return of the currency. So if you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

Commentary on CBP money seizures in Philly

There is an interesting news release from CBP about some money seizures in Philadelphia that goes beyond the usual “facts-only” narrative style and  standard statements about the role of CBP in a typical CBP news release. I find it so interesting, in fact, that I am quoting it in full and providing my own commentary in red below:

Philadelphia — International travelers who arrive or depart the United States in possession of more than $10,000 are required to report all currency to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and complete a Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) form. Those who deliberately refuse to comply with this federal currency reporting requirement face hefty consequences, from mitigated penalties to having their currency seized.

This is not quite right, because there are others who  “face hefty consequences” apart from those who “deliberately refuse to comply.” This includes people who are ignorant or misinformed about the monetary instrument reporting requirements, people who do not know how much money they are carrying — which could be because they did not count it or forgot it was in a pocket on a suitcase from a prior trip, or people who do not know they are over the limit because they are carrying foreign currency and do not know the exchange rate.

My point: deliberate refusal is just one way to get your money seized. It is definitely not the only way to get money seized, which is what Customs says in this news release. The reporting requirement law is written so that even unknowing violations are still violations. So accidents or other non-deliberate acts can, and often will, result in a seizure of money by Customs.

For example, I know many of my clients are unaware of the reporting requirement.  Others are aware of it but have a vague understanding of what it means for them, what is included as a monetary instrument, and how it is to be reported. Others know of the reporting requirement but think it does not apply in their situation. Finally, there are those who know it applies to them and they intend to make the report. But, when confronted by a uniformed Customs official they are intimidated, panic stricken, or their words are misconstrued. Then the official takes their nervous response for a “deliberate refusal” and tells them to be quiet while they search their bags. They are not given a further opportunity to to file a report or even make a verbal report. 

Other times Customs officers will ask a question like: “How much money do you have on you?” or “How much money is in your wallet?” This question will trigger a truthful response like “a few thousand.” The problem with this scenario is that there may be only a few thousand in their wallet or on their person, but there is a bag in the trunk of their car or two fat envelopes in their checked baggage that has $15,000 in it. So in this case Customs has asked the wrong question, the person has given the correct response, and they are most likely going to get their money seized.

Obviously, I take issue with a question like “How much money is in your wallet?” because the real question should be “How much money are you transporting?” Sure, if you are a confident person, not intimidated by uniformed officers, and know the reporting requirement like the back of your hand then you might say, “Well, I have $2,500 in my wallet, but in my wife’s baggage there are two envelopes with a total of $9,860 and I have a notebook in my carry-on luggage with another €5,000, too.” This is the correct response to any question about your money, but who would think to respond like that when all they ask about is your wallet?

So because the person does not give a full disclosure and only answers the question asked by Customs, they will be taken to an area where the person thinks they will have a chance to make a report about what the officer didn’t ask about, count the money, and make the report. Then the officers conduct a secondary examination, searching their vehicle or their baggage and find all the money that was not reported to Customs — and they seize it, after lengthy questioning where the person misses their connecting flight or whatever appointments they might have.

Now here is the problem: The question about what is in their wallet is unfair if asked to try to elicit a violation of the reporting requirement. Yes, other questions are more fair, and more accurate. However, Customs does not have to ask anything at all. Knowing about the reporting requirement and making the report is entirely up to the person who is transporting the money. So even if Customs asks the trick wallet question, or they say nothing at all, you still have to file a report and file it correctly. My problem with trick  questions is that it seems  designed to elicit a violation rather than achieve compliance.

The story continues…

A Russian man learned that lesson the hard way after CBP officers seized $34,500 from him Thursday afternoon at Philadelphia International Airport. During a secondary examination, the Russian man claimed verbally and in writing that he possessed $9,000; however, CBP officers counted $35,000. CBP officers released $500 to the man for humanitarian relief and provided him directions on how to petition the U.S. government for the remaining currency.

This is just the standard petition process, but you also have other options. Usually the petition advice is not received until given the notice of seizure, which can come days, weeks, or even months after the money seizure occurs. The length of times varies on the investigation, case load, and size of the port.

CBP officers assessed a mitigated $1,000 penalty to another Russian man who arrived on the same flight. That man also reported possessing only $9,000; however CBP officers discovered a stack of bills in his baggage. All currency equaled $18,800.

Well, good for this man who got his money back on the scene – usually any mis-report by 5% or more will not be returned on the scene; however, if the total amount is $25,000 or less and no further investigation into the incident is deemed warranted and the traveler has documentation showing legitimate source and legitimate intended use and there is no nexus to criminal activity, then the money can be returned.

“Customs and Border Protection officers offer travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report their currency, but those who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements face severe consequences, such as hefty penalties, or having their currency seized, or potential criminal charges,” said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the area port of Philadelphia. “The easiest way to keep your currency is to truthfully report it.”

I know that this is sometimes true, but I am also sure that this is not always true. I know many clients had  opportunities to report transporting more than $10,000 in money but there are many have also been subjected to “zealous enforcement” and asked trick questions without sufficient opportunity to make, or amend, a report.  Sometimes the philosophy of some Customs officers is to “seize first, ask questions later.”

My clients also report intimidating behavior while they are being detained, like back-slapping, laughter, high-fiving among officers about their seizure prowess, unfounded threats of criminal prosecution, and Dirty Harry type comments like, “This ain’t your first time at the rodeo.”

It is also true, as this news release says, that the easiest way to keep your currency is to report it; but Customs can still theoretically seize your money if you have under $10,000 and they think you are “structuring” to avoid to have to file a report, or if you report over $10,000 but lack good documentation about the source and use of the funds, or if they believe it has some connection to criminal activity.

The story continues…

Philadelphia CBP recorded three additional currency reporting violations recently and one ended in the seizure of $17,516.

  • CBP issued a mitigated $500 penalty to an Israeli man April 18 who claimed that he possessed $10,000; however CBP officers discovered an additional $860 in his pockets.
  • CBP issued a mitigated $1,000 penalty to a Swiss mother and her Israeli son April 10 after CBP officers discovered $23,146 in U.S. dollars, Swiss francs and Israeli shekels. The pair, who arrived from Switzerland, reported possessing a combined $10,100 U.S. dollars and 7,700 Swiss francs. CBP officers discovered multiple bundles of currency during a baggage examination and inside a travel pillow. [See, this type of discovery makes Customs suspicious — but if you are traveling internationally it makes perfect sense to keep the money in different locations in your personal effects so that if lost or stolen, not all your money is lost or stolen. But, in this case the different locations probably resulted in a  a charge of failure to report and bulk cash smuggling.]
  • CBP issued a mitigated $1,000 penalty to a British man April 5 after CBP officers discovered that the man possessed $20,839 in U.S. dollars and British pounds. The man, who arrived from the United Kingdom, declared possessing only $9,000. CBP officers discovered several bundles of British pounds and two envelopes containing U.S. currency.
  • CBP seized $17,516 from a Nigerian woman who arrived March 29 after CBP officers discovered that she possessed $19,016. The woman claimed that she possessed $7,000; however CBP officers found more than $7,000 during an examination of the woman’s purse. CBP officers released $1,500 to the woman for humanitarian purposes and provided the woman directions to petition for the remaining currency.
  • In each case involving mitigated penalties, CBP officers required the travelers to complete a FinCEN form.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers can import or export; however federal law requires travelers to report to CBP amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

In addition to narcotics interdiction, CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international flights and intercepts currency, weapons, prohibited agriculture products or other illicit items.

So there you have it. If you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

 

Customs Money Seizure of $175,000 in Unreported Currency at Port

As reported recently by U.S. Customs & Border Protection:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conducting outbound inspections selected a Mercedes sedan driven by [a male Mexican national], [aged] 29, of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, for further inspection. During the search, officers found a concealed compartment containing 14 packages of U.S. currency. The vehicle and cash were seized. Lara was arrested and referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations.

175k Money Seizure Unreported

The total for the concealed currency, which was seized, was more than $175,000 in  U.S. currency. This individual was arrested and likely faces state or federal charges for bulk cash smuggling, or other similar violations. If he could prove legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the funds, then this situation is regrettable for him and completely avoidable.

So, if you have had currency seized from Customs, I strongly advise against trying to do it yourself. Get the help of an experienced attorney who knows what he is doing. If you do not, you might only make the situation worse by handling it on your own or hiring a lawyer who does not regularly handle these types of matters.

To inform yourself, please read the various articles I have written on this and related topics. But do not let it replace the advice of attorney who is familiar with the law and your particular circumstances. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

 

Customs Money Seizure of $376,510

Customs & Border Protection discusses a recent money seizure in a news release available by clicking HERE.  This time it was a Mexican national travelling from the U.S. to Mexico, who advised Customs that the items he was transporting in his truck were picked up at a swap meet. According to the story:

During the search of the truck, which was loaded with items the man said he purchased at a swap meet, officers found a box supposedly containing lawn furniture. The box actually contained seven packages of unreported U.S. currency totaling $348,840. The vehicle and cash were seized.

Then at the same port, on the same day and different man and vehicle were inspected, and:

During the search a zip-lock bag, a fast-food sack and a brownie mix box were discovered concealing unreported U.S. currency totaling $27,670.

A picture of this rich and chocolaty brownie mix was also included as part of the story.

These individuals were arrested and face charges for bulk cash smuggling under state law. If we assume he proves these two things, then this situation is regrettable for him and completely avoidable. But now, even if criminal charges are ultimately not filed or if they are ultimately found not guilty of a crime, they will still face civil forfeiture of the money and, if they want it back, will have to fight for its return administratively, or in the courts.If these individuals are found not guilty of a crime, then they face the  potentially difficult task of proving a legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the money. 

So, if you have had currency seized from Customs, I strongly advise against trying to do it yourself Get the advice of an attorney who knows what he is doing. If you do not, you might only make the situation worse by handling it on your own or hiring a lawyer who does not regularly handle these types of matters.

To inform yourself, please read the various articles I have written on this and related topics. But do not let it replace the advice of attorney who is familiar with the law and your particular circumstances. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

CBP Seizes Money at Texas Port of Entry

We bring these cases to our reader’s attention not because many honest people find themselves with thousands of dollars hidden underneath their vehicle’s floorboards in a secret compartment (although it has happened to some of my honest clients), but because they do allow me to bring to the public’s attention the laws surrounding the transportation of more than $10,000 in money across the border and seizure of that money.

Customs and Border Protection, in a recent news releaseCBP Seizes Money Texas Port Of Entry discusses the seizure of $80,000 as a result of a failed smuggling attempt to take the cash out of the country in a

concealed compartment and without filing a currency report disclosing the source of the money and intended use of the money. Thus, it was seized and the driver arrested for smuggling.

The news release states as follows:

CBP currency detector canines searched the vehicle and alerted to the floor. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents continued their search and located a hidden compartment in the floor of the vehicle. They removed multiple tape-wrapped bundles of money in the compartment.

If this individual is found not guilty of a crime, then he faces the  potentially difficult task of proving a legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the money. In this case, we could give the man the benefit of the doubt and presume the legitimate source is the proceeds the sale of valuable pieces of art to an eccentic U.S. art collector and the intended use, perhaps he was intending to open a small restaurant in Mexico City. That’s just my guess, and yes, I have handled more bizarre but true cases.

If we assume he proves these two things, then this situation is regrettable for him and completely avoidable. But now, even if criminal charges are ultimately not filed or if he is ultimately found not guilty of a crime, he will still face civil forfeiture of the money and, if he wants it back, will have to fight for its return administratively, or in the courts.

That brings me to the next point:

If you have had currency seized from Customs, do not go it alone. Get the advice of an attorney who knows what he is doing. If you do not, you might only make the situation worse by handling it on your own or hiring a lawyer who doesn’t regularly handle these cases.

To inform yourself, please read the various articles I have written on this and related topics. But do not let it replace the advice of attorney who is familiar with the law and your particular circumstances. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

Bulk Cash Smuggling; Customs Currency Seizure

Arizona news is reporting that a Mexican national was caught trying to smuggle $90,000 in U.S. currency. The individual transporting the currency is being held for bulk cash smuggling charges.  The article has some interested pictures of the actual cash and its location. Apparently drug-sniffing dogs detected the presence of drugs in the vehicle (likely traces on the currency), which tipped them off the presence of the currency.

Legitimate source? Legitimate intended use? You be the judge!

You can read more about what constitutes bulk cash smuggling offense by clicking HERE. If you have had your cash seized by Customs you might find our article on responding to a U.S. Customs money/currency seizure helpful (click HERE to read it). You can also contact our office and speak to a customs attorney by call (734) 855-4999, or by clicking HERE.

U.S. Customs Money Seizure of $460,000 in Smuggled Currency

CBP reports that a money smuggling attempt in Nogales, Arizona, was stopped. This story looks similar in dollar amount — $464,00 seized – amount as a money seizure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection near the Port of Laredo, which I blogged about here.

Us Customs 460k Smuggled Money Seizure
Picture of currency hidden in a nightstand.

This time, though, instead of the money apparently being hidden in the vehicle itself, it looks like it was hidden in a nightstand. Either way, hiding it is most likely going to result in a charge of smuggling, which is basiscally what bulk cash smuggling amounts to.  This resulted in a seizure of the vehicle and the money itself.

For more information on money seizures by U.S. Customs, the reporting requirements, structuring violations, bulk cash smuggling, and how to get seized currency back, please visit our page devoted to discussion of currency seizures, and also read these articles:

And of course, if you have had your money seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, do not delay and call our office immediately at (734) 855-4999! You can also fill out our form and we will contact you, or drop us an e-mail by visiting our Contact page.