Tag: customs attorney

U.S. Customs currency seizures at the ports

As should be expected because of the shared border with Mexico, Laredo news has reports of two other 

Money black hole

significantly large currency seizures; one from another Chicagoan who was found to be transporting $214,925 in unreported currency in her vehicle and, more interestingly, and a 21 year old  Washingtonian who was transporting $115,594 in currency hidden in seven bundles underneath her clothing.

Both seizures occurred the same day and at the same location. As before, the Laredo news does a decent job of getting the law on this topic right, which I have explained before here by noting that you can petition for the return of the currency and that the person transporting the unreported currency is subject to arrest for criminal violations.

That brings me to the next point:

If you have had currency seized from CBP it is a serious matter Рthe law is complex, and any mistake can cost you dearly. Please give us a call and we will provide you with a free telephone consultation. To further inform yourself, you can also read the various articles we have written on this and related topics.

Calculation of Customs penalties for 1592 violations

In a previous article we provided a general overview of U.S. Customs and Border Protection penalties for violations of 19 USC § 1592, and therefore we now address the potential cost of a penalty in terms of dollar amounts and how those amounts are calculated.

In addition to the required payment of any unpaid or underpaid duties (i.e., taxes or tariffs) as a result of a violation of § 1592, a violator will also be responsible for a penalty, which serves  the purpose of deterrence and, to a lesser extent, acts as compensation for the costs of enforcement. § 1592(c). Get ready for the bad news. The penalty amounts range depending, first and foremost, on the level of culpability, as follows:

  • Negligence:¬†Twice (2x) the loss of duties, taxes, and fees or the domestic value of the goods, whichever is less; or, if the violation caused no duty loss then 20% of the dutiable value;
  • Gross Negligence: Four times (4x) the loss of duties, ¬†taxes, and fees or the domestic value of the goods, whichever is less; or, if the violation caused no duty loss then¬†40% of the dutiable value of the goods;
  • Fraud:¬†An amount not greater than domestic value (1x) of the goods.

Customs can set the penalty anywhere it determines appropriate, but the penalty cannot exceed the maximum amount above for any degree of culpability.

Now get ready for the worse news: Customs can increase a penalty, so long as it does not Frustated Executiveexceed the legal maximum, when it finds the presence of aggravating factors, such as:

  • Obstructing an investigation or audit;
  • Withholding evidence;
  • Providing misleading information;
  • Prior violations;
  • Illegal transshipment such that the country of origin has been falsified;
  • Evidence of a motive to admit¬†inadmissible¬†merchandise;
  • Failure to comply with a demand for records or a summons;

But, there is some good news in the midst of all the bad. Even when aggravating factors are present, these penalties can be reduced by Customs when it finds the presence of  mitigating factors, which include:

  • Contributory customs error, such as receiving misleading or wrong advice from Customs;
  • Cooperating with Customs in an extraordinary fashion, beyond that normally for a penalty action;
  • Taking immediate corrective actions, such as hiring an attorney, payment of the actual loss of duty prior the penalty notice, correction of organization or procedural defects, instituting a compliance program, etc.;
  • Inexperience in importing;
  • Prior good record of importations;
  • Inability to pay, as shown by tax return and financial statements;
  • Customs knew of violations, but failed to inform the violator without justification, and there is no criminal investigation.

These above-listed factors are identified by Customs as mitigating factors at the administrative level (that is, when Customs is deciding the penalty amount). Of course, if you disagree with the final decision on the penalty amount from  Customs you will have the right to have a Court decide the matter. The court determines the penalties according to its own set of considerations (which will be the subject of future articles).

If you are issued a pre-penalty notice, penalty notice, or even if you are in the midst of a penalty case with Customs or before the Court of International Trade, you really should have the benefit of an attorney experienced in the customs laws. Beyond the mere arguing for and against the imposition of a penalty, or the presence and absence of aggravating and mitigating factors, there are technical arguments as well as large and well-developed body of case law about when penalties are allowed, and what amount is appropriate. You may have a complete defense to the imposition of penalties. If you are in such a situation, please make use of our experience and contact us today by calling (734) 855-4999 orby filling out our contact form.


Customs seizes $25,000 currency in El Paso, Texas

The El Paso Times reports on a recent currency seizure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in El Paso, Texas, from a woman who was carrying $25,000  as she attempted to walk into Mexico. They found three bundles of currency in her purse, all unreported.

This article gives me the opportunity to provide some additional insight for my readers: every time currency is seized Customs asks the moneyrolldistrict attorney’s office if they want to prosecute. I do not have access to the actual numbers, but from my experience in the vast majority of currency seizures there is no criminal prosecution. But as this article shows, that is not always the case.

In this instance, the district attorney decided to prosecute and the woman is being held without bond and facing criminal charges. If it
turns out the money was from legitimate source and she had a legitimate intended use, this situation was completely avoidable. But now, even if criminal charges are ultimately not filed or if she is ultimately found not guilty of a crime, she will still face civil forfeiture of the money and, if she wants it back, will have to fight for its return administratively, or in the courts.

If you have had currency seized from Customs you should seek the advice of an attorney. If you do not do so, you might only make the situation worse by trying to handle it on your own. Please make use of the various articles I have made available to the public to help better understand your situation and the procedures involved, but do not let them replace the advice of attorney who is familiar with the law and your particular circumstances.