Tag: currency seizure

International Cash Seizures by Customs reported by New York Times

I am a customs lawyer in the United States and, because of that, only deal with customs money seizures when they happen in the United States. Although I do travel through Europe every year I am Customs Money Seizurenot licensed to practice in any country of the European Union. So, it was interesting for me to read a recent New York Times story about customs money seizures in Europe. I really recommend reading the whole article at nytimes.com, callled European Borders Tested as Money Is Moved to Shield Wealth, as it has lots of amusing anecdotes about the people who were caught by European customs agents smuggling cash and getting their money seized.

Customs money seizures are on the rise in France, Spain and Italy. The article essentially says that the rise in customs money seizures in Europe is a result of several factors. First, people are moving money to hide evade higher taxes in some countries; second, tightening rules at Swiss banks, and third, “rising use of cash by fraudsters, including criminal networks and tax evaders”.

Do read the article: European Borders Tested as Money Is Moved to Shield Wealth.

If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or call our office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?

Customs Money Seizure Radio Interview

Customs lawyer Jason Wapiennik will be interviewed today at 4:30 EST on Detroit’s AM 680/690 by certified Arabic interpreter Ratib Habbal in a live interview that will be translated from English into Arabic. We will be discussing common questions with regards to customs money seizures, getting seized money back from Customs, and other areas of Great Lakes Customs Law’s many practice areas.

The interview can be heard live by visiting the WNZK‘s live audio stream HERE.

Reporting Money to Customs to Avoid Seizure

If you are trying to avoid having your money seized by Customs, take some advice from a customs lawyer: do not throw your money at the customs officer, swear at him, and then tell him to count himself. You will get your money seized.

While this seems obvious and not something you need the advice of a customs lawyer to figure out, apparently it is not obvious to some people who get their money seized by customs.

In the case of United States v Six Thousand, Two Hundred & Fifty Dollars, etc., in United States Currency, 706 F.2d 1195 (11th Cir. 1983), the Court had to decide whether or not someone had made the required declaration of currency being transported into the United States in a unique set of circumstances, as related below:

On February 22, 1980, at approximately 12:30 a.m., United States Customs Patrol officers (“CPO’s”) observed a vessel entering the inlet at Port Everglades, Florida. The vessel was proceeding without running lights and had no visible name or registration number. The CPO’s hailed the vessel, and  . . . Gerald Smith, identified himself as the captain and informed the CPO’s that the vessel was entering the United States from Nassau, Bahamas.

Warning Border Crossing Sign[ . . . ]

CPO Hill observed a small leather purse under Smith’s arm. CPO Hill asked Smith what was in the purse. Smith did not respond to Hill’s question, but simply took the purse from underneath his arm and clutched it in his hand. CPO Hill then informed Smith that if he was carrying more than $5,000 in currency or negotiable instruments into or out of the United States, he had to report the monetary instruments to Customs. CPO Hill also briefly explained that it was not against the law to transport currency or negotiable instruments into or out of the United States, but that it was against the law not to report the monetary instruments to Customs. Smith did not respond to these statements; instead, he simply glared at CPO Hill. CPO Hill then repeated his statements regarding the reporting requirements and asked Smith if he could examine the purse that Smith was carrying. Smith responded by throwing the purse in the direction of CPO Hill and stating that if CPO Hill wanted to know how much was in the purse, he should count it himself.

CPO Hill opened the purse and immediately observed that it contained a sizable quantity of currency. CPO Hill then advised Smith again of the reporting requirements. Smith responded with a string of obscenities directed at CPO Hill.

It turned out there was $6,250 in this man’s purse, which back then, was over the former $5,000+ reporting requirement (note: the reporting requirement is over $10,000 now). These facts leave a lot of unanswered questions. Was the Customs officer really so persistent in explaining the reporting requirements in such a chance encounter? I doubt it. And why was the man have such a bad day, and carrying a purse?

But, those are questions I may never know…. the Court only had to answer whether or not throwing the money at the customs officer (“physical presentation” in the court’s words) satisfied the requirement to file the currency report. The court determined that physical presentation of the money did not satisfy the requirement to file a currency report to avoid seizure because physical presentation is not required: filing a report is the requirement, and the two are not equal. The court also stated that the man with the purse should have filed a currency report because the seizing customs officer told him about the requirement on two occasions during the currency seizure encounter.

So, let this be a lesson to anyone transporting currency into our out of the United States; physical presentation is not enough; nor is swearing at a CBPO a good idea, especially if you’ve got some money to lose.

Smuggled Cash in Tire Seized by Customs

Not all stories about cash seized by customs have such great pictures. In September, Customs reported on the discovery of over a half-million dollars concealed in the spare tire of an automobile headed for Mexico. The cash was seized by customs. That story, and the pictures, is what follows (with my emphasis in bold):

Cash Smuggled in TireCalexico, Calif. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested a Tecate man on Friday after discovering $654,900 in unreported U.S. currency hidden in the spare tire of the vehicle he was driving.

The incident occurred at about 5:45 a.m. on August 30th, when CBP officers, together with members of the Imperial Valley Border Enforcement Security Task Force (IV-BEST), were conducting southbound inspections of travelers heading to Mexico through the Calexico downtown port of entry. Officers targeted a 2011 Toyota Tacoma and referred the driver for further examination.

During an intensive inspection that included an alert from a detector dog and the usage of the port’s imaging system, officers discovered 24 wrapped packages of U.S. currency concealed inside the vehicle’s spare tire.

The driver, a 45-year-old Mexican citizen, was turned over to the custody of Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents with the IV-BEST for further processing, and was later transported to the Imperial County Jail to await arraignment.

CBP placed an immigration hold on the driver to initiate removal from the United States at the conclusion of his criminal proceedings.

CBP officers seized the money and vehicle.

It is a federal offense not to declare currency or monetary instruments totaling more than $10,000 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.

 

This is no doubt a criminal prosecution and the person could be determined to be guilty of bulk cash smuggling and failure to report currency over $10,000, and the cash seized by customs will will be forfeited and become the property of the government. If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or call our office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?

How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?

My clients who have had currency seized from Customs often ask me how long it takes to get the money back, or in other words, how long customs has to respond to a petition? The answer depends on a lot of factors. After the currency/monetary instruments are seized
Customs must issue a notice of seizure, and usually they must issue itWaiting on Customs Decision Thumbnail within within 60 days. ((19 CFR Part 162)) If you elect to file a petition to try and have them money returned, usually the longest part of the process is waiting for Customs to make a decision on the petition.

That’s because Customs has no time limit or deadline for deciding a petition. This is hard for anyone to understand because almost every aspect of our lives has some sort of time limit on it…. but not so for Customs. It is possible that it could take forever to make their decision; and as ridiculous as that sounds, it’s basically true. ((The exact limits of how long Customs may take to make a decision are discussed by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Von Neumann, 474 US 242 (1986), and the government indicated that the Administrative Procedures Act might provide a remedy.))

When Customs revised their regulations, during the notice and comment period someone commented that Customs should be required to make their decision on a petition in 120 days. Here is the exchange that sets forth Customs policy ((65 FR 53565, 68, dated 9/5/2007)):

Comment

One commenter indicates that the regulations should be amended in a manner to require Customs to act on petitions within 120 days. The commenter states that when a petition is received, not much else has to be done by Customs and there is no basis for continued delays.

Customs Response

Customs does not agree. When a petition is received, an investigation often must be undertaken in order to determine the veracity of statements made in that petition. This can be a time consuming process, particularly if information from foreign sources must be obtained. Additionally, there are instances when a claimant to seized property or a charged party asks that Customs delay a decision on a petition for relief. If Customs is required to adhere to a rigid decision schedule, it could work to the disadvantage of such a party. While Customs makes every effort to decide petitions for relief as expeditiously as possible, Customs sees no reason to amend the regulations to place a strict time frame on the processing of petitions.

As stated above, there is no time limit on their deciding a petition because Customs conducts their own investigation and review of the incident. For example, the paralegal specialist assigned to the case must determine who has authority to make the decision (it varies based on the property value), analyze the facts presented in the petition against those presented by the seizing officer, thoroughly review the law with respect to the violation, and determine if FP&F has all the necessary information to render a decision, and if not, refer to another source to get that information. The petition can then be referred to the seizing officer, and/or the office of investigations, other agencies, and other technical and legal experts. This is sometimes called by CBP a “technical review” by Homeland Security Investigations. Sometimes HSI will ask to interview you (bad idea, here’s why).

On top of that, there are the normal delays inherent in the process. There may be a number of petitions ahead of yours; or, the paralegal, investigators, or agents may be on leave, sick or taking a vacation, and of course something more urgent might intervene (for example, a change in priorities due to a government shutdown). All of these things can effect how long it takes your petition to be decided. Some ports, on average, take longer than others. In our experience, Detroit processes its cases much faster than New York or Chicago.

The one thing that is for certain is that hiring an experienced attorney to handle you currency/monetary instrument seizure case is important. An experienced attorney can make sure that Customs has all the evidence they need, and everything is presented to Customs in the appropriate fashion. We often find that when we are hired, Customs issues the notice of seizure immediately which can have a great impact on how quickly the petition is prepared, filed and decided by Customs.

If you have had your currency/monetary instruments seized, do not decide how to respond to the notice of seizure without first consulting an attorney. If a petition is appropriate, my office prepares a detailed legal memorandum that contains factual narrative with my client’s side of the story, what led to the seizure, a review of the relevant law, regulations and Custom’s own guidelines concerning the seizure. When the facts allow for it, my Petition will always include a strong argument for return of the money in full, or even when there is a valid basis for the currency seizure, a strong argument for the money to be returned upon payment of a fine in the smallest amount of money possible, rather than forfeiture of all your money. At times, Customs violation of the law or their own policies may permit us to make technical arguments that cancel the seizure entirely.

If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We will be happy to answer any questions you have and explain the process to you. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit. Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?

U.S. Border Patrol Agents Confiscate Cash and Marijuana

About a week ago, U.S. Customs and Border Protection released this news regarding a currency seizure in San Diego:

U.S. Border Patrol agents patrolling the I-15 and agents at the I-5 checkpoint apprehended two individuals in separate events who were involved in smuggling Monday.

At approximately 1:30 p.m., agents encountered a male Mexican national driver on Interstate 15 exhibiting suspicious behavior. Agents conducted a routine traffic stop and questioned the man. A subsequent inspection by a canine team resulted in an alert to the trunk of the 2000 Mercury Marquis. A search of the trunk revealed $43,000 in undeclared U.S. currency hidden inside a cardboard box that was located beneath a false floor. The 55-year-old man was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations. The vehicle and cash were seized by the U.S. Border Patrol.

[ . . . ]

To prevent the illicit smuggling of humans, drugs, and other contraband, the U.S. Border Patrol maintains a high level of vigilance on corridors of egress away from our Nation’s borders. To report suspicious activity to the U.S. Border Patrol, contact San Diego Sector at (619) 498-9900.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

This seizure is different from most articles that I comment on here. For one, it was conducted by U.S. Border Patrol Agents (part of CBP), and because the money was seized after the individual entered the United States.

If you have had currency seized and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information I make available on this website or call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with currency seizures around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?

$296,010 Customs Currency Seizure

From the CBP news releases:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Imperial Valley ports of entry over the weekend intercepted [ . . . ] $296,010 in undeclared currency . . . .

[ . . . ]

[On September 6, 2013], at about 5:00 p.m., CBP officers were conducting southbound inspections of travelers heading to Mexico through the Andrade port of entry. Officers targeted a 2001 Chrysler Town and Country minivan and referred the 56-year-old driver and his passenger, a 54-year-old female, both Mexican citizens, for further examination.

Inside the vehicle, CBP officers discovered a large box among several other household items. The box was emptied during the inspection, revealing bundles of undeclared currency totaling $296,010.

[ . . . ]

“CBP officers at the Imperial Valley ports of entry have proven to be exceptionally skilled at discovering unconventional concealment methods and these seizures are illustrative of those skills,” said Pete Flores, Director of Operations for the San Diego Field Office.

All subjects were turned over to the custody of Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents for further processing and were transported to the Imperial County Jail to await arraignment.

It is a federal offense not to declare currency or monetary instruments totaling more than $10,000 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.

If you have money seized and receive a notice of seizure, do not decide how to respond to a CAFRA Notice without first consulting an attorney. Any mistake or error in judgment you make can cost you dearly.The Petition process is a legal process. The petition itself is and should always be a legal document, no different than in any other legal proceeding, that contains detailed factual narrative, what led to the seizure, a review of the relevant law, regulations and Custom’s own guidelines concerning the criteria for remission. When the facts allow for it, our Petition will always include a strong argument for return of the money in full, or even when there is a valid basis for the currency seizure, a strong argument for the money to be returned upon payment of a fine in the smallest amount of money possible, rather than forfeiture of all your money.

If you have had currency seized and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information I make available on this website or call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through ourcontact page. We are able to assist with currency seizures around the country.

Arizona CBP Officers Seize $300,000 in Cash

From U.S. Customs & Border Protection:

A 35-year-old Douglas, Ariz. man was arrested Friday for attempting to smuggle $300,000 in unreported U.S. currency into Mexico through the Port of Douglas.

Customs and Border Protection officers conducting outbound inspections selected a Toyota truck, driven by Jerry Joseph Del Rio, for further inspection. When officers searched the vehicle they located seven packages of U.S. currency hidden inside of a compartment in the truck cab. The truck and cash were processed for seizure.

Del Rio was turned over 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.

CBP’s Office of Field Operations is the primary organization within Homeland Security tasked with an anti-terrorism mission at our nation’s ports. CBP officers screen all people, vehicles and goods entering the United States while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel. Their mission also includes carrying out border-related duties, including narcotics interdiction, enforcing immigration and trade laws, and protecting the nation’s food supply and agriculture industry from pests and diseases.

If you have had currency seized and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information I make available on this website or call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with currency seizures around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?

$96,880 Currency Seizure by U.S. Customs in Nogales

See the below news release from Customs & Border Protection about a currency seizure in Nogales, Arizona:

Six people were arrested recently in multiple smuggling attempts here involving local residents and Mexican nationals.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Nogales seized methamphetamine, heroin and cash in a four-day period that, when combined, grossed close to $1.5 million in value.

[ . . . ]

Friday afternoon, a local man was taken into custody at the DeConcini Port for attempting to transport $96,880 of unreported U.S. currency into Mexico. Marcos Esquer, 34, was traveling with the extra cash hidden in the engine of his Ford truck.

So, of course as seen countless times in these news releases, the concealment of the cash in the engine of his truck constitutes a smuggling offense. This is likely a criminal proceeding because Customs released his name. If this was just a civil seizure, the guy could try to prove legitimate source and legitimate intended use; then this situation would be 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.

In a civil seizure, you can petition for the return of the currency. 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 or leave us a message.

Detroit CBP seizes $271,463 in Unreported Currency

A news release from Customs & Border Protection that hits close to home, in my own Port of Detroit. Unfortunately for the people involved this story, their currency seizure did not have an outcome similar to those handled by Great Lakes Customs Law.

Detroit — On August 22, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized $271,463 from a lawful permanent resident of the United States and his daughter, a United States citizen, after they both failed to report the currency to CBP officers.

Hekmat and Bedeel Bahnam arrived in Detroit on a flight from Amman, Jordan. They initially denied carrying $10,000 or more in U.S. currency or its equivalent in foreign currency. CBP Officers searched their luggage and discovered $271,463 in U.S. and Iraqi currency. The Bahnam’s were arrested and turned over to agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). They were charged with bulk cash smuggling and conspiracy and face Federal prosecution.

“You must report to CBP that you are carrying $10,000 or more in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency or other monetary instruments when you travel into or out of the United States.” said Devin Chamberlain, CBP Detroit (Airport) port director. “There is no limit as to how much currency travelers can import or export. However, the law requires travelers to report when they carry at least $10,000 in monetary instruments. Violators may face criminal prosecution and forfeiture of the undisclosed funds.”

If you have had currency seized and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information I make available on this website or call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with currency seizures around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?