Tag: customs lawyer

U.S. Customs Money Seizure Story; $145,000 Confiscated

Below is a news release concerning a customs currency seizure of more than $145,000 for failure to report and bulk cash smuggling (concealing money in cellophane bundles wrapped inside a shopping bag is predictably ripe for allegations by customs of bulk cash smuggling). 

Based on the fact that the woman was arrested and the the prevalence of drug money seeping across the U.S.-Mexico border, it seems highly likely that something illegal was happening here. However, innocent people who simply failure to report the amount of currency they are transporting get their currency seized and confiscated by customs everyday at airports and land borders. These people can get their money back with the if they follow the right steps to respond to their currency seizure.

Even though this person was arrested, they have the right to try to get the money back by proving legitimate source and legitimate intended use. The CBP news release also correctly states the person can petition to have the seized money returned, but there are other options, too: a claim could be filed which initiate judicial forfeiture of seized currency, and I occasionally there are cases where making an offer in compromise makes sense.

On to the full story:

EL PASO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents working at the El Paso port of entry seized $146,070 Thursday evening. The money was hidden in a shopping bag inside a vehicle that was leaving the U.S. at the Bridge of the Americas international crossing at the El Paso port of entry.

CBP officers and Border Patrol agents were conducting a southbound inspection operation at the BOTA crossing when a 2011 Dodge Durango attempted to leave the U.S. at approximately 11:15 p.m. CBP personnel selected the vehicle for an intensive examination after a preliminary interview with the driver. CBP currency detector canine “Nouska” searched the vehicle and alerted to a bag inside the vehicle. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents found three cellophane wrapped bundles inside the bag. The bundles were opened revealing the U.S. currency. CBP officers seized the currency. CBP officers dicovered [sic] three bundles of currency in a vehicle leaving the U.S. at the El Paso port of entry.

CBP officers took custody of the driver, 40-year-old Jennifer Guadalupe Hernandez, a U.S. citizen residing in El Paso. She was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI special agents in connection with the failed smuggling attempt and booked into the El Paso County jail where she is being held without bond.

“CBP officers and Border Patrol agents are checking southbound traffic everyday trying to stop guns, ammunition and unreported currency from being smuggled out of the country. Their diligence paid off in this enforcement action,” said Hector Mancha, U.S. Customs and Border Protection El Paso port director. “The unreported cash that we seize has an impact on the criminal organizations by making it more difficult for them to further their illicit activities.”

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S. However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP. Failure to report 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.

We handle currency seizure cases that occur at the Detroit airport and land border crossings like the Detroit/Windsor-Tunnel and Ambassador Bridge on a regular basis, and have been very successful in getting our client’s money back from customs.  If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page.  We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando. Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. CustomsKeep Calm and Declare Monetary Instruments Exceeding $10,000 USD
  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. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

Fake Soccer Clothing Seized by Customs

Recently, Customs made a large seizure of counterfeit soccer club apparel in Puerto Rico. We have previously discussed, in a two article series, about the dangers of importing counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States, how it can result in seizure, monetary penalties, and what can be done.

This story underscores the importance of everything we discussed in those articles: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2 and Importing Grey Market Goods (click to read). The story is below, with my emphasis in bold:

With a high demand for the 2014 FIFA World Cup related apparel, some dishonest vendors sought to capitalize on the event’s popularity, infringing on various trademark holder’s rights and revenues. On Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) San Juan Field Operations officers seized a consignment of counterfeit soccer team delegation uniforms. The shipment arriving from Hong Kong to the San Juan Air Cargo facility, contained boxes of soccer t-shirts and shorts that were destined to an address in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“The trade in these illegitimate goods is associated with smuggling and other criminal activities, and often funds criminal enterprises”, stated Area Port Director Juan Hurtado. “Protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a CBP priority.” Further inspection revealed that the uniforms of the fake Brazilian, Italian and Argentinian national teams violated the IPRs of Puma, Adidas and Nike.

[ . . . ]

During FY 2013, CBP field operations conducted more than 164 seizures related to IPR violations, with a domestic value of approximately $1.9 million. Trade in counterfeit and pirated goods threatens America’s innovation economy, the competitiveness of our businesses, the livelihoods of U.S. workers, the economic security of our country, and in some cases, the health and safety of consumers.

Importing counterfeit items into the United States is a very serious matter. First, it is very likely that after seizure the property will be forfeited and destroyed by the U.S. government if, in fact, they are counterfeit. Once forfeiture is perfected, the person who caused the importation will probably get a notice of penalty from U.S. Custom & Border Protection in the mail for the equivalent of the value of the products if they were real.

The person will have a chance to respond to customs’ notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to reduce the penalty based on the presence of certain mitigating factors that customs particularly looks for. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. If the person fails to pay the penalty, the government can bring a lawsuit 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.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs seizures nationwide.

Customs Airport Money Seizure of nearly $200k

Customs officers conducting currency seizures last week in Philadelphia were busy. As reported by customs, they seized currency totaling $188,830 from three different sets of  travelers arriving into the United States. Our customs law firm handles currency/money seizures made by customs in Detroit and around the country; call (734) 855-4999 to consult with a customs lawyer today.

The story told below is common among our currency seizure clients; their money was returned and they were not arrested, which indicates that customs did not suspect that the seized money was being transported as part of any criminal activity. In fact, the Iraqis who had their currency seized by customs were likely fleeing the escalating violence in Iraq and taking along with them their life savings, or a big chunk of it, to seek safety in the United States.

Here are the details from customs:

PHILADELPHIA — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized a combined $188,830 during three federal currency reporting violations Monday through Wednesday at Philadelphia International Airport.

In the first seizure, a Ghanaian man, arrived Monday and reported that he possessed $9,400 in U.S. dollars and 80 Euros. During a baggage inspection, CBP officers discovered stacks of unreported U.S. Dollars, Euros and Ghana Cedi. CBP officers seized $39,500 and released the man.

In the second seizure, a couple from Iraqi, arrived Tuesday and reported that they possessed $10,000 in U.S. dollars and some Iraqi currency. During a baggage inspection, CBP officers discovered six bundles and loose currency of unreported U.S. Dollars, Iraqi Dinars and Qatari Riyal. CBP officers seized $111,000 and released the couple.

In the third seizure, a U.S. man and lawful permanent resident woman, arrived Wednesday and reported that they possessed a combined $15,000. During an inspection, CBP officers discovered three bundles of consecutively numbered $100 bills and additional U.S. currency. CBP officers seized $38,330 and released the couple.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers may bring to, or take from the U.S.; however, federal law requires travelers to report to CBP amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency. Travelers who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of having their currency seized, and may potentially face criminal charges.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers permitted these travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report all currency in their possession and they failed to comply. The easiest way to hold on to one’s currency is to truthfully report all of it to a CBP officer,” said Susan Stranieri, CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia.

The Ghanaian man arrived from Frankfurt. The couples in the latter two cases arrived from Iraq via Qatar. None of the five travelers were criminally charged.

If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. CustomsKeep Calm and Declare Monetary Instruments Exceeding $10,000 USD
  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. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

Customs Currency Seizure in Philly

Below is a news release concerning a $40,359 customs currency seizure for failure to report, which based on the report seems like the currency was seized not only for mis/failure to report of currency, but also because it was concealed inside clothing and the lining of his baggage, which customs considers bulk cash smuggling. We handle currency seizure cases just like this that occur at the Detroit airport and land border crossings like the Detroit/Windsor-Tunnel and Ambassador Bridge on a regular basis, and have been very successful in getting our client’s money back from customs.  If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page.

Apparently, customs was satisfied that this person was not involved in any blatantly obvious criminal behavior because he was not arrested and apparently will not be criminally charged. That means that, in order to get his money back from customs, he will have to prove that the seized money came from a legtimate source and that he intended it for a legitimate use (e.g., nothing illegal). On to the full story:

PHILADELPHIA — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $39,500 from a Ghanaian man for violating federal currency reporting regulations Monday at Philadelphia International Airport.

The man, whose name isn’t being released because he wasn’t criminally charged, arrived from Frankfurt about 4 p.m. A CBP officer referred him to a routine secondary baggage examination.

The man reported to CBP officers, both verbally and in writing, that he possessed $9,400 in U.S. dollars and 80 Euros. The baggage exam revealed two stacks of U.S. currency and Ghana Cedi inside clothing and the baggage liner. A currency verification revealed $39,500 in U.S. dollars, 80 Euros and 2,280 Ghana Cedi, for a combined $40,359 in equivalent U.S. dollars.

CBP seized $39,500 and returned the foreign currency to the man for humanitarian purposes.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers may bring to, or take from the U.S.; however, federal law requires travelers to report to CBP amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency. Travelers who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of having their currency seized, and may potentially face criminal charges.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers permitted this traveler multiple opportunities to truthfully report all currency in his possession. Hopefully, this is a lesson to all travelers that the easiest way to hold on to their currency is to truthfully report it all to a CBP officer,” said Susan Stranieri, CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia.

If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. CustomsKeep Calm and Declare Monetary Instruments Exceeding $10,000 USD
  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. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

Customs Seizure of $91,215 in Currency at Border

Below is a news release quoted from customs about a $91,215 customs currency seizure. If this person whose cash was seized by customs wasn’t up to anything illegal, then customs currency seizure was totally avoidable. He would have had to file the currency report, and demonstrate a legitimate source and legitimate intended use for the money. That is still what he will have to do if he wants to get the money back. But, he could have taken it with him had he only not hid the money and given Customs what they needed.

Let’s have a look at the story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conducting inbound enforcement operations at the Brownsville Port of Entry seized $91,215 in bulk U.S. currency.

On May 29, 2014, CBP officers working enforcement operations at the Gateway International Bridge came in contact with a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country as it attempted to enter the United States. The driver, an 18 year-old United States citizen from Brownsville, Texas was referred to secondary for further inspection. In secondary, a search of the Town & Country resulted in the discovery of packages containing $91,215 in bulk U.S. currency hidden within the vehicle.

CBP officers seized the currency; the driver has been transferred into the custody of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further investigation.

“Persistence and dedication in northbound enforcement inspections are critical to our efforts of keeping undeclared currency from being imported without meeting proper reporting requirements. I commend our CBP officers for an outstanding seizure and arrest in this alleged bulk currency smuggling case,” said David Moreno, acting CBP Port Director, Brownsville.

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.

CBP Field Operations at Brownsville Port of Entry is part of the South Texas Campaign, which leverages federal, state and local resources to combat transnational criminal organizations.

If you have had money seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  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. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

Customs Counterfeit Seizures; Counterfeit Guitars

Back in May, Customs made a large seizure of counterfeit guitars in Jersey City. We previously discussed, in a two article series, the dangers of importing counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States; how it can result in seizure, monetary penalties, and how the importer can defend it. It also happens that this story deals with false country of origin marking on imported merchandise.

This story underscores the importance of everything we discussed in those articles: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2 and Importing Grey Market Goods (click to read). You should also review the articles we have published on country of origin marking, available Country of Origin Marking Requirements and Customs Country of Origin and Substantial Transformation. The story is below, with my emphasis in bold:

Jersey City, N.J. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at the International and Counterfeit guitars seized in Jersey CityBulk Mail Center in Jersey City, N.J. discovered more than 185 counterfeit guitars with an estimated retail value of more than $1,000,000.

While examining oversize parcels, CBP officers discovered five guitars bearing the Gibson, Les Paul, Paul Reed Smith, and Martin trademarks, as well as the marking “Made in USA.”  The officers immediately suspected the guitars of being counterfeit based on the Counterfeit Guitar Seizurescountry of origin, poor craftsmanship, and packaging.

CBP has since identified more than 180 counterfeit guitars bearing additional trademarks of Epiphone, Fender, Taylor, and Ernie Ball—all being shipped through the same facility. Officers discovered business cards within the packaging, all referring to the same website. The website indicated these guitars could be purchased from China for about $200 to $500; but the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for authentic guitars range anywhere from $2,000 for basic models to $54,000 for signature models. The guitars were seized by officers and are scheduled for destruction.

“CBP is on the forefront of protecting the American economy and trademark holders. Counterfeit goods pose a serious threat to the consumer and economic loss to American business,” said Robert E. Perez, director of CBP’s New York Field Operations. “Enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a priority for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

CBP protects businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive IPR enforcement program.

Information about internet purchases is available. Additional information on CBP’s IPR enforcement efforts can be found at CBP IPR.

Notice how the false country of origin marking may have raised the suspicions of customs and caused them to investigate the legitimacy of trademark further. Trouble never travels alone. You should read about your liability for customs violations for things you purchase on the Internet.

If you have merchandise seized by customs and either lose your opportunity to get the merchandise back, abandon the merchandise, or ignore the notice of seizure, it may not be the end of trouble for the importer. In general, customs has the authority to fine or penalize anyone who violates the laws enforced by customs. This means that, weeks or months after the property is seized and forfeited, you may get notice of penalty in the mail from customs that demands payment of thousands of dollars in penalties! It could also mean you get a letter from the trademark holder threatening you with further legal action.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs seizures nationwide.

Customs Counterfeit Seizure; Soccer Jerseys

One of customs’ trade enforcement priorities is stopping the flow of counterfeit goods into the United States. Recently, customs seized counterfeit soccer club apparel that was imported into the United States with a street value of over 1 million dollars — “street value” here means the value of the merchandise if it was authentic. We have discussed the perils and consequences of importing counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States in previous articles, namely Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2  and Importing Grey Market Goods (click to read).

The whole story is HERE, but let’s take a look at it below with my emphasis in bold:

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Soccer, known internationally as football, is the world’s most popular sport today. So it’s no wonder that some vendors will do anything to capitalize on this popularity, even if that includes resorting to theft; theft of a trademark holder’s rights and revenues.

It’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) mission to tackle counterfeit imports, and officers and import specialists in Savannah, Ga., scored a seizure of soccer apparel, April 11, which exceeded $1 million in manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

A few of the counterfeit soccer jersey seizures displayed.
Shipment arrived from China March 12. It contained 390 cartons of soccer t-shirts, socks, shorts and other merchandise.

“Trade in counterfeit and pirated goods threatens America’s innovation economy, the competitiveness of our businesses, the livelihoods of U.S. workers, the economic security of our country, and in some cases, the health and safety of consumers,” said Reginald Manning, CBP Director of Field Operations in Atlanta. “Together with our enforcement partners, Customs and Border Protection continues to guard the nation’s borders against counterfeit products.”

The shipment arrived from China March 12. It contained 390 cartons of soccer t-shirts, socks, shorts and other merchandise that was destined to an address in Chamblee, Ga.

CBP import specialists placed an inspection hold on the shipment and had the container trucked the following day to CBP’s central examination station. That’s when CBP discovered several t-shirts bearing patches of professional soccer clubs and detained the shipment for trademark verification.

The apparel, which has an MSRP of $1,016,399, represented Arsenal, Barcelona, Celtic, Chelsea, Mexican Federation, Paris Saint-Germain, and Real Madrid football clubs.

CBP requested that the importer’s broker submit authorization letters from the respective trademark holders to import their branded items, but on March 27, the broker reported that the importer did not have authorization.

Over the next week, representatives from Arsenal, Celtic, and Chelsea football clubs reported to CBP that samples of the merchandise bearing their brand was indeed counterfeit. CBP then officially seized the shipment.

View or download still photos of the seized merchandise.

Protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a CBP priority trade issue.

CBP protects businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive IPR enforcement program. CBP targets and seizes imports of counterfeit and pirated goods, and enforces exclusion orders on patent-infringing and other IPR violative goods.

The People’s Republic of China, where this shipment was manufactured, remains the primary source economy for counterfeit and pirated goods seized by CBP and its primary IPR partner, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with a total value of $1.1 billion. That number represents 68% of all IPR seizures by MSRP in FY 2013.

In addition to China, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seized counterfeit merchandise from 73 additional economies during FY 2013, including Hong Kong, India, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The most interesting part of this article to readers of this blog should be the the customs brokers was asked for proof of authorization from the trademark holders to import trademarked merchandise into the United States, but was unable to do so. Basically, customs was asking the broker to prove the items were not counterfeit – or that the trademark holders would not object to them being imported into the United States. Not likely to happen, that. If you can obtain the consent of the trademark holder, you’re much more likely to be able to import them to the US.

If you have merchandise seized by customs and either lose your opportunity to get the merchandise back, abandon the merchandise, or ignore the notice of seizure, it may not be the end of trouble for the importer. In general, customs has the authority to fine or penalize anyone who violates the laws enforced by customs. This means that, weeks or months after the property is seized and forfeited, you may get notice of penalty in the mail from customs that demands payment of thousands of dollars in penalties! It could also mean you get a letter from the trademark holder threatening you with further legal action.

In Part 2 of this series, we discuss when and how customs can assess a monetary penalty after the counterfeit property is seized and forfeited.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions for customs seizures nationwide.

Customs Currency Seizure; Criminal Charges for Bulk Cash Smugglers

U.S. customs effected a currency seizure of unreported currency under the bulk cash smuggling laws from citizens of the Dominican Republic and United States, who are all related and travelling together.  Some interesting things to note about this story is that although the money seems to be from a legitimate source because the story says it was from a business, criminal charges were nevertheless brought against all individuals involved in the bulk cash smuggling. Bulk cash smuggling is illegal, no matter the source. We have written articles about bulk cash smuggling before HERE.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $53,000 in unreported currency Friday, transported by three passengers boarding the M/V Caribbean Fantasy ferry departing to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

CBP Officers selected Dominican Republic citizen Mr. Felipe Alvarez, 69, for examination and explained to him the currency reporting requirements.  During the interview, Mr. Alvarez declared to be traveling alone and transporting less than $10,000. Intensive examination revealed that he was traveling with two other passengers, US citizen Manuel De La Rosa, 47, and Dominican Republic citizen Cristian De La Rosa, 35, both nephews of Mr. Alvarez.

Subsequent interview and exam of the three passengers revealed non reported currency within their clothing and in their carry-on items totaling $53,726.00. Mr. Alvarez later admitted that the money transported by him and his nephews were proceeds of his business in the Dominican Republic.

The currency was seized under bulk cash smuggling laws and Assistant AUSA Olga Castellón approved criminal prosecution for the three individuals.

Those arrested were remanded to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for processing and further investigation.

“The unreported cash that we seize has an impact on criminal organizations by making it more difficult for them to further their illicit activities,” said Juan Hurtado, San Juan area port director. “CBP officers remain vigilant generating important enforcement activity regularly.”

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the United States.  However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP. Failure to report may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

Source: http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/local/2013/1/28/46527/US-agents-seize-US53000-from-local-man-at-San-Juan-Seaport

If you have had money seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  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. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures

Detroit Customs Seizes Imported Machine Gun

Customs in Detroit recently seized a firearm, as detailed in a local and interesting news release. In this case the firearm was a .50 caliber machine gun. The original story is available here, but it is reproduced in full below. The only information we have available is that which is in the news release, which is a bit foggy on the details, but nevertheless it appears this was primarily a problem with insufficient and incorrect/misleadings documents presented to customs at the time of entry into the United States. The driver of the commercial cargo van only presented a manifest and a “generic email” the described the shipments as machine gun parts when, allegedly, it was an “assembled” U.S. origin machine gun (picture below, appears disassembled but more than just “parts” as described by the manifest).

Ultimately, Customs seized the gun apparently not because it was prohibited from entry, but because the importer “failed to satisfy federal importation procedures [regarding] documentation, manifest, bill of lading, entry type, proper invoice, tariff classification and proper disclosure of intent.”  The story below:

DETROIT- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Fort Street Cargo Facility in Detroit seized a .50-caliber machine gun during a cargo inspection. .50 Cal Machine Gun Seized at Fort Street Cargo Facility
Detroit Customs Machine Gun SeizureOn May 13, a commercial cargo van arrived at the cargo facility with only a copy of an electronic manifest and no invoice to describe the cargo. The only information about the shipment provided by the driver was the manifest, listing the shipment as Cal Machine gun parts and a generic email. The shipment was in fact, an assembled .50 caliber machine gun manufactured by an Ohio company.

After consultation with Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and agents from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), CBP officers seized the machine gun as the shipment failed to satisfy federal importation procedures in regards to documentation, manifest, bill of lading, entry type, proper invoicing, tariff classification and proper disclosure of intent.

“Both CBP and the importing community have a shared responsibility to maximize compliance with laws and regulations. CBP encourages importers to be familiar with applicable laws and regulations, especially when there are specific requirements related to a particular commodity,” said Rod Blanchard, CBP Port Director in Detroit.

A monetary penalty was assessed against the importer and the weapon was returned to Canada.

Importers and travelers should visit www.atf.gov for importation information for firearms.

Based on the story, it seems that all of these problems could have been avoided if the importer had done their customs law homework and either consulted with or hired a customs broker prior to attempting to import the machine gun into the United States. Here is where the story gets a little more confused; although it seems customs seized the machine gun, it also seems that the seizure was shortly remitted and allowed to be shipped back to Canada.

The bad news is that the importer was already assessed a penalty (also, if true, that’s a fast turn around for a penalty from customs — it can sometimes take months). Great Lakes Customs Law handles penalty mitigation proceedings (some history of our success is HERE) and, if not already done, this importer should seriously consider trying to get the penalty mitigated if the amount is high. I do wonder what the penalty amount and basis is for this particular alleged violation because I could foresee a variety of them including importations contrary to law, falsity of manifest, failure to declare, and a few others.

If you have had your merchandise seized or have received a notice of penalty from customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer about the possibility of getting your penalty reduced, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions and in penalty cases by customs nationwide.

Customs Country of Origin & Substantial Transformation

Determining country of origin for U.S. Customs marking purposes can at times be easy but other times it can be very difficult. This depends largely on the number of countries involved and the processes the merchandise undergoes in those countries. We have previously discussed how to properly mark country of origin on imported merchandise in another article (READ IT HERE).

In this article, we will try to briefly explain how country of origin is determined for customs marking purposes for merchandise imported from countries that the U.S. does not have a special trade agreement with. ((Different laws often apply for determining country of origin when there is a free trade agreement in place, as of this writing, the U.S. has free trade agreements with Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, and Singapore.)) At the time of posting this article, then, these rules for determining country of origin is appropriate for countries such as China, Germany, Switzerland, England, Italy, and some others where there is no special, overriding, trade agreement.

How is country of origin determined?

For customs purposes, country of origin is the country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article. If only one country is involved in the production, manufacture, or growth of the article, that is the country of origin.

However, for articles that are manufactured or produced with materials from more than one country, or which undergo further production or manufacture in more than one country, the country of origin is the country where the article last underwent a “substantial transformation.” Substantial transformation is defined as the process whereby the article is turned into a new and different article of commerce, with a different and distinct name, character, and use from the article as it was previously. ((19 CFR 134.1(d); In United States v. Gibson-Thomsen Co., 2 Cust. Ct. 172 (1938); U.S. Rules of Origin, CBP (2004), p. 9.))

Again, these rules are only for countries that the U.S. does not have a special trade agreement with. So, for example, there are different country of origin marking rules for NAFTA.

When is merchandise “substantially transformed” for country of origin purposes?

What constitutes a “substantial transformation” for any particular article depends on the specific type and amount of production and manufacturing that the article undergoes. For this reason, no general guideline beyond creating a “new and different article of commerce, with a different and distinct name, character, and use” is possible.

For that reason, each article’s country of origin must be determined on a case-by-case basis. If it is difficult to determine country of origin for a particular article, it might be necessary to get formal guidance from customs through a request for a prospective ruling, which usually results in customs issuing a formal ruling letter that they are obliged to honor. It can also be helpful to review previously issued ruling letters to find similar cases, and get a sense for how the law is applied to a particular situation. This should only be done by a customs lawyer or an experienced broker, who understands the law and the exact phases of production of the imported merchandise.

What happens if imported merchandise has an incorrect country of origin marking?Keep Calm and Contact Your Customs Attorney

If country of origin marking is wrong, Customs will deny release of imported products, or if already released from Customs custody, they will be required to be returned via redelivery notice. Customs may impose and collect an additional duty of 10% of the article’s value before allowing release (“marking duties”), an amount in addition to any other duties normally owed, if any. Before release, Customs will  require that the article be marked with the correct country of origin and until marked duties paid.

Customs Attorney Consultation for Country of Origin and Marking Requirements

If you have a question about proper country of origin marking, identifying the actual country of origin, otherwise determining how to comply with the Customs rules concerning proper country of origin marking for imported merchandise, or if your competitor is not marking or mis-marking country of origin on their products, you should contact our office at 734-855-4999 or send us a message on our contact page. We can always help.