Tag: fine

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?

CBP in Southern Arizona Seizes $100K In Cash

The currency reporting requirements were designed, in part, to give the government additional abilities to catch people involved in money laundering. Wikipedia, in its article on money laundering, explains that:

Money laundering is the process of concealing the source of large amounts of money that have been gained through illegitimate means. Money evidently gained through crime is “dirty” money, and money that has been “laundered” to appear as if it came from a legitimate source is “clean” money. Money can be laundered by many methods, which vary in complexity and sophistication.

Therefore, it is with great irony that I share with you the following news release from Customs involving a currency seizure resulting from an effort to smuggle money out of the United States and into Mexico by concealing it in a box of laundry detergent.

Nogales, Ariz. —A southern California woman was arrested Saturday for attempting to smuggle $100,000 in unreported U.S. currency into Mexico through the Dennis DeConcini Port.

Customs and Border Protection officers conducting outbound inspections selected a Honda sedan, driven by Blanca Gabriela Medina, 29, of El Monte, Calif., for further inspection. When officers searched the vehicle, they located 10 packages of U.S. currency hidden in a box of laundry detergent. The vehicle and cash were processed for seizure. Medina was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

And the best part of all, the picture:

CBP Southern Arizona Seizes 100k Cash

 

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 our contact page. We are able to assist with currency seizures around the country, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

CBP Currency Seizures in Philadelphia for Violations of the Currency Reporting Regulations

CBP in Philadelphia has really stepped up their news releases concerning currency seizures.  Recently, there is a new release which I quote in part below. The Port in Philadelphia always gives us the most detail in the currency seizures, making it ripe for my commentary. Thus, I have put my own emphasis in bold lettering and my comments in [brackets].

A U.S. woman learned a very difficult lesson Sunday at Philadelphia International Airport after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $39,570 that she failed to truthfully report to officers.

The woman, who was not criminally charged [though she could have been, as I write about here], arrived from Portugal with a Portuguese friend. Both women were referred to a secondary examination after both reported possessing more than $10,000 in currency [note that though both reported over $10,000, the report still must be accurate] – the U.S. woman claimed $30,620; the Portuguese woman $20,700. During the secondary examination, CBP officers learned that $40,570 of the combined $51,320 belonged to the U.S. woman [which is a structuring violation if the money was given to her travelling companion to avoid the reporting requirement]. CBP released $1,000 to the U.S. woman for humanitarian purposes and seized the remaining $39,570. Officers advised her how to petition for the seized currency. [And she no doubt is waiting for notice of seizure and election of proceedings form. Read about how to respond to a currency seizure here.]

CBP officers also assessed a $500 mitigated currency reporting penalty to the Portuguese woman. It was one of six currency reporting penalties for a combined $3,500 in penalties that CBP officers assessed to travelers in the two-week period from July 21 to August 4.

There is no limit to how much currency that travelers can bring into, or take out of the United States. Travelers are required to formally report amounts of $10,000 or more in U.S. dollars, equivalent foreign currency, or other monetary instruments.

“CBP derives no great pleasure from seizing travelers’ currency. [Institutionally, perhaps, but the occasional seizing agent no doubt takes some pride in their accomplishments.] However, there are consequences for failing to comply with U.S. laws,” said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “We hope that word of these penalties will compel these and other travelers to be honest with us and to truthfully declare what they are bringing to the U.S.”

The remaining five currency reporting penalties included:

July 29, CBP officers assessed a $500 penalty to a 37-year-old Nigerian man who reported $8,500, but officers discovered that he possessed $11,400.
July 27, CBP officers assessed a $500 penalty to a 76-year-old Nigerian man who reported $5,000, but officers discovered that he possessed $11,622.
July 26, CBP officers assessed a $500 penalty to a 53-year-old Italian man who reported $7,000 in U.S. dollars, 250 Euros and 500 British pounds. Officers discovered that the man possessed $10,071 in U.S. dollars, 1,150 Euros and 1,500 British pounds, equivalent to $13,213 in U.S. dollars.
July 23, CBP officers assessed a $1,000 penalty to a 68-year-old Italian man who officers found to have structured $24,644 between himself, his brother and his girlfriend to evade reporting requirements for possessing more than $10,000.
July 21, CBP officers assessed a $500 penalty to a 38-year-old Ghanaian woman who reported $9,000, but officers discovered that she possessed $11,870.
Privacy laws prohibit CBP from releasing their names as no subjects were criminally charged.

CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international passengers and cargo, and searches for terrorist weapons, illicit narcotics, unreported currency, counterfeit merchandise, and prohibited agriculture and other products.

If you have considered your options and decide in you want to hire an lawyer, or have other questions, please contact us by calling (734) 855-4999 or by clicking here – it’s almost never too late to get a lawyer involved. We will be happy to answer any questions you have and explain the process to you.

If you have other questions about currency seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 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?

 

$50,000 Currency Seizure at Brownsville Port

We republish below a recent money seizure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which was effected in Brownsville, as follows:

On June 13, 2013, CBP officers working outbound enforcement operations at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge came in contact with a 1996 Ford Crown Victoria as it attempted to exit the United States and enter Mexico. The driver, a 24 year-old United States citizen from Brownsville, Texas was referred to secondary for further inspection. In secondary, a search of the Crown Victoria resulted in the discovery of six packages of bulk U.S. currency [$50,000] hidden within the vehicle.

CBP officers seized the 50k Currency Seizure Brownsville Port 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 outbound enforcement inspections are critical to our efforts of keeping undeclared currency form being exported without meeting proper reporting requirements. I commend our CBP officers for an outstanding seizure and arrest in this alleged bulk currency smuggling case,” said Michael Freeman, CBP Port Director, Brownsville.

Little detail is given, but as with we could give the man the benefit of the doubt and presume the legitimate source is the proceeds of a life insurance policy of a beloved family member; and the intended use, perhaps he was paying cash for a nice place in the American ex-pat community of Merida. That’s just my guess, and yes, I have handled stranger cases. Maye he was just hiding the money (also called smugglingto protect it from imagined theieves as he crosses the border into Mexico.

If we assume he proves these two things, then this situation is regrettable for him and 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.

That brings me to the next point: 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.

If you have other questions about currency seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 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?

If you have considered your options and decide in you want to hire an lawyer, or have other questions, please contact us by clicking here – it’s almost never too late to get a lawyer involved. We will be happy to answer any questions you have and explain the process to you.

CBP Seizes $205,500 in Unreported Money

As reported by CBP in a recent news release:

Lukeville, Ariz. – Two Mexican nationals were arrested Monday for attempting to smuggle $205,500 of unreported U.S. currency into Mexico through the port of Lukeville.

Customs and Border Protection officers conducting outbound inspections selected a 2000 Toyota sedan for a secondary inspection. The vehicle’s occupants [ . . . ] told officers they had nothing to declare. During the inspection, however, officers found 22 bundles of U.S. currency in the vehicle’s panels.

Both individuals were referred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. The cash and vehicle were seized.

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.

Live and learn, and quit smuggling. The vehicle was probably seized under authority of 19 USC 1595a, which allows Customs to seize any conveyance which has been outfitted for the purposes of smuggling (e.g., vehicles with secret compartments, boats with false floors, secret hull compartments, etc.). The money was probably, at least until criminal charges are made, seized for a simple bulk cash smuggling and/or failure to report the transportation of more than $10,000 out of the United States.

And while we are on the topic, isn’t this fact pattern a much more obvious case of bulk cash smuggling? The money was concealed in the vehicle’s panels, and there is likely no logical reason why it should be stored there; but, this qualifies for concealment and, as the bulk cash smuggling law is written, so does simply having it stored in your luggage, as explained in previous articles.

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. Read about responding to a customs currency seizure.

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.

 

Structuring currency imports and exports

The law concerning reporting transportation of more than $10,000 in currency and/or monetary instruments coming into or out of the United States is clear; any amount more than $10,000 must be reported. So what about two or more of transactions of $10,000 or less?

It is illegal to structure an importation or exportation in order to avoid filing the required report under 31 USC § 5324(c)(3). For example, if a person wanted to transport $25,000 from the U.S. to Brazil, it is illegal to divide the money into smaller sums and export those smaller sums on the same or different occasions to avoid filing a report. It does not matter if the money is divided and given to a  person on the same flight (or same car, bus, boat, etc.), or if it’s done days, weeks, months, or years apart if done to avoid having to file a report — structuring the transaction to avoid filing the report is illegal and carries serious civil and/or criminal consequences. It does not matter if you have other reasons for structuring the transaction, so long as one of those reasons to is to avoid having to file a report your structuring of the transaction is illegal.

On the other hand, dividing the money for any reason other than evading the reporting requirement is legal. However, my typical cautionary disclaimer applies: you still have to prove it and convince Customs that your intent was not to avoid filing a report, and hope that your evidence is strong enough to get your money back (remember, Customs will have seized it pursuant to 31 USC § 5317).

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 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?

Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.

Many posts in this series have dealt with how and why Customs will seize currency and monetary instruments crossing the border for a violation of 31 USC 5316, which is a failure to report. Customs is also empowered to seize cash or its equivalent smuggled into or out of the United States under 31 USC 5332(c) in addition to seizure for failure to file a report.

At its core, the law against bulk cash smuggling prohibits (1) the concealment of currency or monetary instruments, with (2) an intention to evade the reporting requirement, during the (3) knowing transport, transfer, or attempted transport or transfer, of the currency or monetary instruments out of or into the U.S. 31 USC 5332(a)(1).

Concealment can be done on your person, including  in clothing, a conveyance (e.g., a vehicle), in luggage, in a backpack, with or in merchandise, or any other container, whether it is worn or carried by the person transporting, transferring, or attempting to transport or transfer the currency or monetary instruments. 31 USC 5332(a)(2).

This law allows Customs to seize and forfeit through a civil proceeding “[a]ny property” including the container, conveyance, luggage or clothing, “involved in a violation . . . or a conspiracy to commit such violation, and any property traceable to such violation or conspiracy[.]” 31 USC 5332(c). This means that not only will Customs seizue the currency or monetary instruments, but in some cases also the luggage, backpack, merchandise, or conveyance in which it was concealed. The law also provides for penalties for a criminal conviction of not more than 5 years, among other sanctions. 31 USC 5332(b).

Each of the 3 elements above have a legal definition too detailed for an article this short, but suffice it to say that the terms “knowing” and “intentional” do not have the common, everyday definitions you might expect. If you are not a lawyer or don’t mind losing more than $10,000 do not try to be clever and figure it out.

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 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?