Tag: chicago

Jewelry seized by CBP for failure to declare

Failure to declare violations nets CBP Chicago $1.4 million

CBP in Chicago is touting the revenue increase for dutiable goods by collecting duties and penalties from traveler’s who fail to declare the goods when they arrive in the United States. Here’s the story:

Officers in secondary screening are charged with enforcing duties travelers must pay for the items they bring back to the U.S. A Custom’s Duty is a tariff or tax imposed on goods when transported across international borders.

Officers are also assessing mitigated penalties. These penalties are imposed when a passenger does not declare – or does not accurately declare – new items or merchandise coming into the U.S. This also includes penalties for zero-tolerance drug/narcotics seizures & penalties for low level currency seizures.

Since the beginning of this Fiscal Year, October 1, CBP has collected over $477,000 in duties and $698,431 in mitigated penalties from travelers arriving in Chicago.

“It is important for travelers to be truthful and claim the items they are bringing back,” said LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, Director, Field Operations-Chicago Field Office. “Those that try to avoid paying a tax could be charged a penalty that is three to six times the taxable amount that would have been due.”

* * *

“Failure to declare is covered by 19 USC 1497.  Violations can incur serious penalties,” said Shane Campbell, Area Port Director-Chicago.  “I always encourage travelers to simply declare all of their items acquired overseas when returning to the U.S.  Otherwise, it can result in the seizure of the items(s) and significant penalties.”

Has CBP Chicago seized your property or given you a penalty for a failure to declare?

A failure to declare is serious, and can get seriously expensive. To get the best possible outcome, you will need to properly determine the duties owed (which involves classifying the products on the tariff schedule [HTSUS] properly) and also argue all the factors in your favor which warrant mitigation, and explain away any aggravating factors that are present that could lead you to a higher penalty.

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.

Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. You should contact us today to help you file a petition for mitigation, to get your seized merchandise back and to reduce the penalty for failure to declare to the lowest amount possible. If you’ve already paid duties and penalty, contact us for an evaluation of your case to see if we can get some of your money refunded.


Seized cash in sealed shirt bags

CBP Chicago Seizes $107k Cash

Finally, a customs cash seizure in Chicago has made the news! This story involved over $100,000 being taken out of the country and into Jordan. The story states that at least part of the $107,360 was concealed in “several sealed shirt bags” which then prompted the individual to declare $107,000. Our Chicago office sees a few cash seizure cases each year.

Interestingly, the story states that it was seized because the passenger “failed to properly report” the cash — but they do not state that it was seized for bulk cash smuggling. Based on the explanation in the story, I would expect it to also be seized for bulk cash smuggling violations — which could mean a loss of 50% of the money by the individual even if they can prove it came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use.

CHICAGO—On April 11, 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers assigned to O’Hare International Airport intercepted one male subject concealing $107,360 during an Outbound Enforcement Operation.The passenger was traveling alone on his way to Jordan. When asked, the passenger gave a currency declaration for monetary instruments in the amount of $20,000. However, during inspection of the subject’s carryon baggage, several sealed shirt bags were found and inspected revealing numerous bundles of $100 bills. When CBP Officers found the concealed currency, the subject stated he actually had $107,000.

CBP seized the money because the passenger failed to properly report he was traveling outside of the United States with more than $10,000 as required by 31 USC § 5316.

Has CBP Chicago Seized Your Cash?

If CBP Chicago seized your cash at Chicago O’Hare Airport or Midway airport, you should give us a call for a free currency seizure consultation and make use of our free customs cash seizure legal guide.

CBP checkpoint at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel border crossing, with vehicles in the foreground.

Detroit & Chicago Cash Forfeiture Notices

There have not been any CBP news releases recently about cash seizures conducted by U.S. Customs & Border Protection, but that does not mean CBP has stopped seizing cash. Far from it, in fact. For example, there are only a couple (if that) of cash seizure news releases from the Port of Detroit each year, yet last year they were #2 in cash seizures nationwide.

Once cash is seized by CBP, a person has several options to try to get it back (or to not get it back), most of which are on the election of proceedings form. If they aren’t successful, don’t try to get the money back, or file a claim, the publication of the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit is published online for all the world to see and, if interested, to make a claim for the seized cash.

Case in point, on November 20, 2015, at the land border crossing between Detroit and Canada $14,000 cash was seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection for a failure to report. Because the seizure occurred last November and is only now being published, it is very likely that the administrative resolution was unsuccessful.

That usually means a bad lawyer, no lawyer, or insufficient documentation showing legitimate source and use of the seized cash.

2016380100013401-001-0000, Seized on 11/20/2015; At the port of DETROIT, MI; $14000 IN USD; 140; EA; Valued at $14,000.00; For violation of 31USC5317, 31USC5316, 31CFR1010.340(A)

Now even though Detroit has more CBP cash seizures than Chicago for violating the reporting requirements, Chicago CBP seizes a lot of cash seizures for alleged criminal violations, including money laundering:

2016390100098701-001-0000, Seized on 08/11/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 1,344; EA; Valued at $31,000.00; For violation of 18USC981, 18USC1956, 21USC881

2016390100098901-001-0000, Seized on 08/10/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 176; EA;Valued at $4,000.00; For violation of 18USC981, 18USC1956, 21USC881

Now, I would love to know if these were seized from people traveling internationally, or just people traveling within the United States. If seized while traveling internationally, because there is no cited violation of the reporting requirement (or bulk cash smuggling or structuring laws), I would imagine either the money was truly reported but Customs suspected (or knew of…) a connection to illegal activity; or, the connection to illegal activity was so strong they chose not to allege a violation of the reporting requirements laws under Title 31.

Has Chicago or Detroit CBP seized your cash?

If CBP in Chicago or Detroit seized your cash, you need a lawyer. Read 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. Our new, Chicago customs law office is located at 150 S. Wacker Drive, where we can be reached at (773) 920-1840.
An image of cash lined within the pages of magazines seized by Chicago CBP at O'Hare airport

$150k Seized at O’Hare Airport by Chicago CBP

Since we opened up our Chicago office to help people who have had cash seized at O’Hare Airport by U.S. Customs & Border Protection, we’ve had little in the way of CBP news releases about currency seizures there. But, I remembered seeing a story about some cash seized for bulk cash smuggling and failure to report at O’Hare back in 2011.

I remembered it because it involved more than $125,000 that was hidden in various parts of a family’s luggage and personal effects they were traveling with; like money hidden within the pages of books, magazines, and photo albums… here’s the full story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conducting outbound enforcement operations at Chicago O’Hare International Airport seized $125,849 in bulk U.S. currency on March 1.

Among other passenger, CBP officers selected a family, traveling to Pakistan onboard Etihad Airlines, for an outbound currency verification examination. Prior to departure, CBP officers explained the currency reporting requirements and the husband declared the family was departing with only $17,000. Subsequently, a full baggage examination was conducted after a routine inspection revealed over $35,000 in his carry-on bag.

During the CBP examination, currency was discovered concealed in several locations including $5,200 in the pages of a magazine, $19,300 hidden behind pictures in a photo album and $4,500 in a pair of children’s pants. Currency was located in all carry-on baggage belonging to the family with an additional $7,800 found in their checked bags. The total amount of undeclared currency seized was $125,849.

“Everywhere the officers looked they kept discovering more concealed currency,” said Janice Adams, CBP acting director of field operations in Chicago. “Money was hidden in every conceivable location. This is an outstanding seizure by our CBP officers working outbound operations at Chicago O’Hare.”

This, my friends, is more than a failure to report; it is bulk cash smuggling. In other words, it was the intentional concealment of the cash for the purpose of not having to report the cash to CBP in Chicago. Bulk cash smuggling has much higher rate of forfeiture than a “simple” failure to report. Anyone who has had money seized for bulk cash smuggling should give us a call for a free currency seizure consultation and make use of our free customs cash seizure legal guide.

If you have had cash seized at Chicago O’Hare Airport or Midway airport, give our customs attorney a call at (773) 920-1840, or click the contact buttons on this page to send us an e-mail or request a call back.

CBP Cash Seizure Chicago O’Hare Airport

On April 12, 2016, some poor soul in Chicago had over $16,000 currency seized at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. For what, you ask? Well, judging from the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit published Friday last, some violation of Title 31 of the United States Code.


2016390100067501-002-0000, Seized on 04/12/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 768; EA; Valued at $16,210.00; For violation of 31USC

As can be seen, the notice published on the forfeiture.gov contains, what I assume, is a clerical error. Typically, these notices will contain a host of laws violated. 31 USC is not a law, but rather, an entire book of laws that outlines the role of money and finance in the United States. It is most likely that the money was seized for purported violations of the usual suspects; 31 USC 5316, 31 USC 5324 and/or 31 USC 5332.

My sources tell me that O’Hare International Airport recently began permitting on-site mitigation of cash seizures valued at less than $25,000, to ease the processing burden on the folks who handle the petitions filed with FP&F Chicago. Customs policy permits individual ports to choose to offer on-site mitigation when the persons are transporting less than $25,000 and they mis-report an amount that is 5% or less in variance with the actual amount being transported.

If on-site mitigation was an option, the likely explanation for the seizure still occurring is a misreport of 5% or more in the amount that was being carried by the traveler. Over the years, we’ve helped a lot of people who have their cash seized by CBP at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Do not let your cash seizure case in Chicago get to the point that CBP publishes a forfeiture notice.

Did CBP seize cash from you at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport?

If you have had currency seized from Chicago CBP, please contact us in Chicago at (773) 920-1840. Our customs lawyer in Chicago’s office is a short walk from U.S. Customs & Border Protection Chicago’s Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures office.

A Cash Seizure at O'Hare Airport Chicago is pictured in this Notice of Seizure and Intent to Forfeit

Cash Seizure at O’Hare Airport in June 3 Notice

A cash seizure at O’Hare Airport in Chicago was recently published for administrative forfeiture by U.S. Customs & Border Protection. As said, the seizure ocurred at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and the reasons for seizure were a failure to report cash to CBP at O’Hare airport and bulk cash smuggling.

A decision timeline at CBP in Chicago on a currency seizure petition typically takes anywhere from 6 to 18 months, depending on which paralegal is handling the case and the issues raised in the petition and the supporting documentation. Thus, the fact that this cash seizure occurred on March 12, 2016, at O’Hare airport tells me that either someone did not receive the personal notice of seizure letter, they have chosen not to respond to it, their petition was legally defective, or they have (or will soon) file a claim.

A claim removes the case from CBP and brings it before a judge in Federal District Court. Our Chicago customs law office is located conveniently within a few blocks of both CBP’s Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures branch and the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

When is better to file a claim with CBP and not an administrative petition? That is a question that should only be answered after consulting with a customs lawyer experienced in getting cash seizures returned from CBP because each case is a little different. We wrote about that issue a little bit in our article called Understanding CBP’s Election of Proceedings Form.

The excerpt from forfeiture.gov is reproduced, in part, below:


June 03, 2016
July 02, 2016
August 02, 2016

2016390100060801-001-0000, Seized on 03/12/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 1,331; EA; Valued at $42,440.00; For violation of 31USC5317(C), 31USC5316, 31USC5332

Have you had a cash seizure at O’Hare Airport Chicago?

If you experienced a cash seizure at O’Hare Airport Chicago 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.

PHL Fake Traveler's Check Seized by CBP in Philadelphia en route to Chicago

CBP Seizes Counterfeit Checks for Chicago

CBP in Philadelphia seized counterfeit traveler’s checks with a face value of $33,000 on May 25th, which were destined for an address in Chicago. The seizure occured at a sorting facility near the Philadelphia International Airport. Here’s part of the story from CBP:

CBP officers inspected the parcel, which arrived from Nigeria and was manifested as documents, and discovered 67 separate $500 MasterCard travelers checks. Upon closer inspection, CBP officers discovered that none of the alleged security features were visible on the checks. CBP officers seized the parcel, which was destined to an address in Chicago.

The story closes by saying that on a typical day CBP seizes more than $350,000 in cash from throughout the country. Here, the negotiable instruments were not part of a failure to declare (although calling them “documents” certain is not a full declaration for customs purposes), but rather were seized because they were counterfeit and also very likely connected to other criminal activity (scamming).

A twist on this story I’ve heard recently is scammers offering to send millions of dollars of cash into the United States, rather than traveler’s checks. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I do not always know how these scam stories end or what the story is behind the scam (that is, why they’re offering to send cash or traveler’s checks, if it’s counterfeit, etc.), but the old say that if something is too good to be true, it probably is, has helped many people avoid being scammed by these counterfeit check/money situations.

Anyone involved in these types of transactions, whether knowingly or unknowingly, opens themselves up to both criminal and civil liability. Don’t get yourself in trouble.

We recently wrote about “millions” of dollars of “hell” counterfeit money that was seized after arriving travelers, not imported through a commercial shipment, as here.

Picture of what the cash seized at Dulles airport looked similar to.

CBP Cash Seizure Trends Change

CBP cash seizure trends change over the years. For example, a recent money seizure at Dulles Airport tells me that Dulles CBP seems to be ramping up enforcement of the currency reporting requirement. As with the most recent stories we’ve put up on this customs law blog, this story likewise involves person traveling to Africa — a report of $18,000 was made, but the amount he transported actually was $28,518.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO), at Washington Dulles International Airport seized $28,518 Monday from a U.S. citizen for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

A man, who is a resident of Georgia, was boarding a flight to Ethiopia and was selected for questioning by CBP officers who were conducting an outbound enforcement operation on the international flight.  The man completed a financial form, reporting $18,000 however; a total of $28,518 was discovered on his person and in his luggage.  CBP officers seized the $28,518 and advised him how to petition for the return of the currency.

The fact that many cash seizures at Dulles have occurred to people traveling to and from Africa is interesting (to us, anyway); because as populations shift, market demands change, airlines change routes, add new destinations, or go in-and-out of business, so to do enforcement opportunities by CBP.

With an improving African economy, more cash goes to and from the country. What is true now about people traveling to Africa was not true in the 1970s, and may not be true in the 2030s. Enforcement may shift with shifting immigrant populations. For example, if China’s economy is on the brink of collapse, Chinese nationals are going to try to get their cash out of the country. That means heightened cash seizure opportunities by CBP at every international airport where those flights will land.

For example, a few years back there was a big spike in cash seizures from Mongolians at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The reason for the cash seizure trend changing was was an improving Mongolian economy and convenient flights between Chicago O’Hare International airport and Ulaanbataar, Mongolia.

You should go back and read our blog posts about Chinese importing money into the United States and our popular article about targeted enforcement of customs money seizures for more information on this phenomenon.

A legal notice of seizure and intent to forfeit (CAFRA)

CBP Chicago & Detroit Forfeiture Notices for April 15

When CBP seizes money it is subject to forfeiture. Typically, Customs sends a letter notifying all interested persons that the property has been seized, is subject to forfeiture, and some options for getting seized money back (not all options, by the way). If administrative remedies to get seized money back are not successful, publication of a notice of forfeiture is made by CBP.

Publication of a notice of intent to forfeit used to be done in newspapers, until the government wised up and made a website specifically to give notice of forfeitures. So now, notices of seizure and intent to forfeit are published at www.forfeiture.gov, and depending on the Port involved, usually occurs about once each week.

The property listed in those notice of seizure and intent to forfeit is what no one wants (abandoned), no one knows about (lack of actual service of notice of seizure by mail), or which they could not successfully get back administratively (they could not provide they had a right to it, or it was somehow illegal).

In CBP Detroit’s April 15 notice of seizure, there’s a total of $64,480 up for potential forfeiture for failure to report, money laundering, fraudulent identification documents, and fraudulent account access devices.

  • 2015380200017901-001-0000, Seized on 07/11/2015; At the port of PORT HURON, MI; U.S. CURRENCY RETAINED; 846; EA; Valued at $64,480.00; For violation of

We recently opened an office location in Chicago better serve those who’ve had money seized at O’Hare airport. The notices for Chicago do not appear to be for failure to report, bulk cash smuggling, or structuring though. But Chicago’s April 15th notice of seizure and intent to forfeit has a total of $1,525,176 up for forfeiture.

  • 2016390100014001-005-0000, Seized on 11/10/2015; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; US CURRENCY; 2,150; EA; Valued at $34,445.00; For violation of 21USC881,19USC1595A(A)21USC841,21USC846
  • 2016390100028101-002-0000, Seized on 12/16/2015; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 1,183; EA; Valued at $32,390.00; For violation of 18USC981,18USC1956
  • 2016390100042101-001-0000, Seized on 01/27/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; BULK USC; 12,476; EA; Valued at $259,935.00; For violation of 18USC981,18USC1956
  • 2016390100049101-001-0000, Seized on 02/09/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; BULK USC; 28,092; EA; Valued at $625,080.00; For violation of 18USC981,18USC1956
  • 2016390100067201-001-0000, Seized on 04/09/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 5,926; EA; Valued at $99,969.00; For violation of 18USC981,21USC881,19USC1956
  • 2016390100067301-002-0000, Seized on 04/09/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 22,853; EA; Valued at $473,357.00; For violation of 18USC981,21USC881,18USC1956

$1.5 million is, to most folks, a lot of money. To the government, it might be a drop in the bucket or a digit to the right of a decimal point in the budget. But whether government, rich, or poor every can agree — any little bit of cash helps. If no one files a claim and wins a portion of the seized money back, it will go to the government to support its operations.


Two red envelopes with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.

Why some Chinese travel with cash leading to airport seizures

One question I face from most Americans when I tell them that our customs law firm helps people recover from money after customs money seizure is, “Why would anyone travel with all that money?”

Two red envelopes (hongbao) with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.
Some Chinese bring money in red envelopes (hongbao) for the Chinese new year celebration to give to family

It’s a good question.The answer? Many foreign governments, China in particular, restrict the amount and method that its citizens can take from the country via capital-controls; when the economy tanks or the currency is devalued, it increases the desire to move the money into another country before the market gets worse.

A few years ago the Wall Street Journal did a story about rich Chinese trying to get their money out of China, in the form of cash, that illustrates this point. The story is Chinese Fly Cash West, by the Suitcase and it provides some insight into why people travel with Cash from China, and why Customs seizes this money from them at airports:

China restricts private citizens from taking out more than $50,000 per individual per year. While it is hard to enforce these restrictions, Chinese authorities are scrutinizing outgoing private cash amid a broad anticorruption drive and as worry grows over the risks of capital flight.

The money seized at airports represents just a sliver of private Chinese money pouring out, but highlights that Chinese citizens are turning to one of the oldest and simplest methods to evade those controls: taking cash out in a suitcase.

The articles goes on to say:

From 2009 to 2011, U.S. airport customs officers seized over $5 million in undeclared cash from Chinese citizens, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That is 8.4% of the total seized and more than double the nearest amount for another nationality.

Transporting large amounts of cash isn’t necessarily illegal. Travelers must declare cash over $10,000 when they land in Canada or the U.S. Most undeclared cash is temporarily seized and subject to fines. If customs agents believe the cash comes from illegal activities, the onus is on the traveler to prove otherwise before it is returned.

I would correct this final paragraph with a few legal subtleties. If any amount of money is undeclared to customs, all of the money transported may be seized and, if legitimate source and use are not proven to Customs, will be forfeited forever (i.e., lost). This burden is on the traveler whether or not Customs believe the cash comes from illegal activities. It must always be proven.

Moving cash from China subjects a person to fines in China:

In China, violators of Beijing’s rules on moving out cash are also subject to fines. From 2007 to 2011, China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange levied such fines totaling 1.27 billion yuan ($202 million), according to the most recent data available.

The story goes on to state that seizures from 2009 to 2011 dramatically increased at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and San Francisco for money seized by Customs from Chinese nationals. But the numbers seized by U.S. Customs were smaller than that seized by Canadian customs. Apparently because property rules rules and investor visas are easier to obtain.

The New York Times also published a story we tweeted about:

I’m sure the cash is flooding the U.S. market now for the same reasons. Customs will seize unreported money from any Chinese traveler or immigrant at any U.S. airport if they catch them.