Tag: cash reporting requirement

An image of cash seized by Customs at Dulles airport while traveling to Ghana

Dulles CBP Seizes $40k Cash Unreported

Dulles continues to be the leading source for news-releases pertaining to cash seizures for more than $10,000 for failure to report to Customs, or bulk cash smuggling, and the related offenses under Title 31 of the United States Code. In this particular story (original here), Customs seized $40,000 from a man who reported traveling with $25,000.

Upon making that report he completed a FinCEN 105 form (probably under some duress) for that same amount. At this point (as they always do), CBP conducted a complete search of his person and baggage to determine if he was telling the truth. As is frequently the case, he was not. In fact, they discovered another $10,000 in a white envelope and another $5,400 in some other places. Here is the full story:

STERLING, Va., — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $40,900 from a man boarding a flight to Ghana last Thursday at Washington Dulles International Airport.

The man, who CBP has not named because he was not criminally charged, initially reported to officers that he possessed $500.  After officers advised the man of U.S. currency reporting regulations, the man presented three white envelopes that contained $25,000, and reported that much on a financial reporting form.

CBP officers then discovered a manila envelope with $10,000, an additional white envelope in the man’s backpack that contained $5,000, and $400 more in his wallet.  The combined currency equaled $40,900.

Travelers may carry as much currency as they wish into and out of the United States.  Federal law requires that travelers must report all U.S. and foreign monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or greater on a U.S. Treasury Department financial form.  None of the currency is taxed.

Has Dulles CBP seized your cash?

If Dulles CBP seized your cash, beware that you stand to lose a lot of it because of their aggressive penalization of bulk cash smuggling and structuring offenses. You should read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and contact our customs lawyer for a free cash seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

Detroit Airport Currency Report Sign

CBP Seizure of Cash without Warrant

U.S. Customs & Border Protection can seize cash without a warrant when traveling internationally into or out of the United States if they have probable cause to believe that you violated the cash reporting requirement, the bulk cash smuggling laws, or the structuring laws. Most people know these laws simply as the $10,000 reporting requirement.

Does CBP need a warrant to seize money?

The U.S. Constitution creates an exception to the warrant requirement when you consent to the warrant requirement or when a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy. At the international border, the U.S. Supreme Court has said you have absolutely no reasonable expectation of privacy. Thus, CBP can seize your cash without requiring a warrant if you are at a border or are at an airport and flying into or out of the United States.

Furthermore, as if the interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court were not enough, Congress passed a law giving U.S. Customs & Border Protection the right to search and seize at the border, without a warrant. This appears in Title 31, which is the body of laws governing the federal currency reporting regulations.

31 USC 5316(b) says:

Searches at border. For purposes of ensuring compliance with the requirements of section 5316 [31 USCS § 5316], a customs officer may stop and search, at the border and without a search warrant, any vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or other conveyance, any envelope or other container, and any person entering or departing from the United States.

and 5316(c)(2) says…

(2) Civil forfeiture. Any property involved in a violation of section 5313, 5316, or 5324 of this title [31 USCS § 5313, 5316, or 5324], or any conspiracy to commit any such violation, and any property traceable to any such violation or conspiracy, may be seized and forfeited to the United States in accordance with the procedures governing civil forfeitures in money laundering cases pursuant to section 981(a)(1)(A) of title 18, United States Code.

Have you had cash seized by CBP without a warrant?

If you had cash seized by CBP without a warrant, there’s nothing wrong with that from CBP’s perspective. That’s legal, if traveling internationally. But, you still have some chance to get the money back by showing that the money is not connected to illegal activity.

If CBP seized your cash you need a lawyer. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact our customs lawyer for a free cash seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

A copy of the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit featuring the case of the incomplete check seized by CBP

Incomplete Checks Seized by CBP in Detroit

On May 10, someone at the land border between Detroit and Canada attempted to bring into or leave the country with a check for $50,000 that was blank – in that it did not have a payee — in other words, the payee in the “pay to the order of” section of the check was blank. That’s what you call an “incomplete instrument” in legal-speak, or we’ll call it an incomplete check for our purposes.

Incomplete checks fall under the general monetary instrument reporting requirements that Customs enforces at all ports of entry through the United States. In fact, incomplete checks are specifically identified as being part of the monetary instruments that must be reported to customs, apart from cash. 31 CFR 1010.100(dd)(iv) states the monetary instruments include ….”incomplete instruments (including personal checks, business checks, official bank checks, cashier’s checks, third-party checks, promissory notes (as that term is defined in the Uniform Commercial Code), and money orders) signed but with the payee’s name omitted“.

So Last Friday, U.S. Customs & Border Protection at the Port of Detroit noticed its seizure and intention to forfeit a check (a/k/a a negotiable instrument) valued at $50,000. The notice is as follows:


2016380100064801-001-0000, Seized on 05/10/2016; At the port of DETROIT, MI; CHECK (SIGNED WITHOUT PAYEE); 1; EA; Valued at $50,000.00; For violation of 31USC5317, 31USC5316, 31CFR1010.340(A)

I bet this person thought they could get around the reporting requirement by not completing the payee on the check, just like the many people who think they can get around the reporting requirement by dividing the money through structuring.

They might also be under the mistaken impression that they will cancel the check, and CBP will not be able to keep the $50,000. But that is not what happens when CBP seizes a check; after seizure, CBP can “freeze” those funds in the bank account, or by otherwise getting access to the money, and by getting cooperation from the bank itself. Be warned.

Have you had a check seized by CBP?

If you have had a check seized by CBP you can learn more about the process from our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

Detroit Airport Currency Report Sign

Prepaid Card Seizure & CBP Reporting Requirement

On Forbes the other day, I read an interesting article about prepaid debit cards getting seized.The story is about Oklahoma police, but it discusses how they benefited from some technology developed for use by U.S. Customs & Border Protection in seizing prepaid debit cards. The interesting part of the story is that criminals are increasingly moving money across the border by means of prepaid debit cards; moreover, that these the information contained on the prepaid debit card can also be stored on any card with a magnetic stripe, including a hotel room key.

Truly fascinating, ingenious, and in hindsight, obvious. The story also says that detecting what is stored on these electronic debit cards used to take weeks, but some company called ERAD came up with a better way allowing customs to access the information in seconds. According to ERAD Group:

Even with probable cause, [customs officials] had no way of identifying the card value, freezing the funds or seizing the money at the point of arrest. ERAD-Prepaid™ solved that problem by condensing a process that takes many days, weeks or months into one that takes a few seconds.

This shed some light on to an increasing number of customs seizure press releases that I’ve read that involve people importing things CBP has sometimes called “fradulent gift cards” that contain “personal identity information”. One such story appeared the other day:

On Saturday, CBP officers arrested Ramzi Kadir, a 22-year old male, Mouad Benameur, a 21-year old male, and Abdelhakim Zaier, a 22-year old male, all citizens of Canada, after 13 fraudulent gift cards containing personal identity information were discovered in their possession.  The men and cards were turned over to New York State Police.

So, perhaps cash was not stored on the magnetic stripes but some other personal information was stored. Something nefarious enough to cause CBP to arrest these individuals.

The Forbes piece caused me to wonder, if you’re traveling across the border with a prepaid debit card does it count toward the $10,000 threshold reporting requirement? Do prepaid cards with more than $10,000 have to be reported to CBP to avoid seizure? I think, yeah, probably. Most likely. Certainly, if the law isn’t clear whether it counts or not — to be on the safe side, you should report it to CBP to avoid a potential prepaid card seizure.

For the time being, I do not have time to look into this and provide a definitive legal answer; I’ll save that for paying clients. I can say that the definition of monetary instruments does not explicitly list “prepaid cards” as a category, but it certainly seems to be more like a “bearer instrument,” which is required to be reported.

Recall that things like credit cards and debit cards attached to a traditional bank account do not have to be reported under 31 USC 5316. But the prepaid cards are unique in that they are not attached to a bank account; basically, the money exists on the card and can be accessed at an ATM.

Have you had prepaid cards seized by CBP?

If you had prepaid cards seized by CBP, give us a call and click the contact button on this page to get in touch with us today!


U.S. Money Seized by Customs (CBP) Stacked on a Table with Envelopes

CBP Confiscated Cash of $18,000 at Dulles

CBP confiscated cash of $18,000 at Dulles Airport from a family bound for Lebanon. The family verbally reported $12,000 cash to customs, then completed a FinCEN 105 form for $14,100.
Upon inspection, CBP discovered they actually had the equivalent of approximately $18,000, consisting of Euros and U.S. dollars.1
The real issue we want to address in this CBP cash confiscation story is the “verbal report” the family made. The CBP cash reporting regulations state that the cash report shall be filed “at the time of entry into the United States or at the time of departure . . . . with the Customs officer in charge”.
So, if you are stopped and make an accurate report of cash to Customs without filing a written report of cash on FinCEN 105, you’ve already violated the law. So even assuming the verbal report by the Lebanese family was accurate, there would still be a violation of the currency reporting requirement. A report of cash to CBP must be accurate, in writing, and on time! Otherwise, you’ll next person from who CBP confiscated cash.

Here’s the story about how CBP confiscated cash at Dulles:

CBP officers seized $18,592 on Thursday from a Lebanon-bound family for failure to comply with federal currency reporting regulations. A CBP currency canine alerted to the family on the jetway. The family verbally reported $12,000, and then reported $14,100 on a U.S. Treasury Department currency reporting form after a CBP officer explained the law. A baggage inspection revealed several white envelopes that contained a total of $17,428 in U.S. dollars and 1,164 Euros. CBP officers seized the U.S. currency, released the Euros to the family, and then released the family to continue their trip.
If CBP confiscated cash from you, you can learn more from our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.
  1. The story notes that money was in “several white envelopes”, which could lead to allegations of bulk cash smuggling. We’ve talked about bulk cash smuggling in depth; and be forewarned, if Dulles alleges bulk cash smuggling after CBP confiscated cash, you are going to permanently lose a substantial amount of your money. Read about it at $16k Dulles Airport Currency Seizure by CBP or at Cash seized at Dulles airport by CBP or at Dulles Airport Cash Seizure Nets CBP $40K or at Dulles Airport Money Seizure by Customs of $43,015, just to name a few. []