CBP has organized itself around a fiscal year that is different from the calendar year; every October 1 begins the government’s new “fiscal year”, and so too, begins CBP’s tracking of seizure activity at its various ports of entry. In years’ past, we have reported, in particular, on Detroit’s fiscal year seizure activity. For example, in 2015 CBP in Detroit had an exceptional cash seizure year during their fiscal year 2015, seizing more than $10 million from 540 people (roughly $838,924.58 per month). After that news was published, I was anxious to see what happened in 2016; but alas, not cash seizure summary for Detroit was ever published.
But, we do have some preliminary indications that 2017 will be a ‘good year’ for CBP in terms of cash seizure. Probably not so good for travelers, though. Here is the excerpt from the CBP story:
So far this fiscal year which began October 1, ports within the Detroit Field Office have seized more than $4.4 million dollars, an 8 percent increase over the same time frame last fiscal year.
To further break this apart, if $4.4 million is over a 7 month period, then it is $628,571.42 per month, or a decrease of more than $210,000 from FY 2015. We shall see what the future holds for FY 2017. In my spare time (ha ha), I will reach out to Detroit to see where I can get my hands on the totals for 2016.
CBP discovered over a quarter-million dollars hidden in the right-rear quarter-panel of a Dodge Durango that was being driven out of the United States into Mexico. The story states the driver of the vehicle was arrested for a failure declare cash over $10,000, but pretty obviously, this was more about a bulk cash smuggling offense (which is also a criminal offense).
CALEXICO, Calif. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Calexico ports of entry over the weekend intercepted $273,005 in unreported U.S. currency and discovered approximately $57,400 worth of methamphetamine in two separate smuggling attempts.
The first incident occurred on Apr. 7, at around 8 p.m., at the Calexico East port of entry, when CBP officers conducting southbound inspections of travelers heading to Mexico stopped a 2001 white Dodge Durango. Officers referred the driver for a more in-depth examination.
After an intensive examination that included an alert from a currency and firearms detector dog and use of the port’s imaging system, officers discovered 11 wrapped packages containing $273,005 in U.S. currency concealed inside the right rear quarter panel of the vehicle.
The driver, a 60-year-old male and lawful permanent resident of the United States, was arrested for failure to declare monetary instruments in value of more than $10,000 and was turned over to HSI agents for further investigation.
Theoretically, if the driver of the vehicle that the $250,000 cash was hidden inside of could prove that the money came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use, he might be able to get some of the money back, even if he is criminally convicted. It’s not very likely, but it might be possible. The likelihood this could happen is reduced in bulk cash smuggling cases as opposed to failure to report cash cases due to the activity that is prohibited in the case of each law; in the case of failing to report cash, the prohibited activity is not reporting cash of more than $10,000. In this case of bulk cash smuggling, the prohibited activity is the concealing of cash with the intent to avoid filing the required cash report.
CBP officers recently seized a lot of cash — $163,130, to be exact — from a 34 year-old U.S. citizen from Yakima, Washington, who was attempting to leave the United States for Mexico in a taxi. In his baggage, CBP officers found 11 packages of cash. The money was not only not reported to customs, but it was also concealed. Here’s the full story:
On March 21, CBP officers at the Hidalgo International Bridge conducting outbound examinations encountered a 34-year-old man, a United States citizen from Yakima, Washington traveling in a taxi as he approached the exit lanes, heading towards Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. After referring the taxi passenger for further inspection, officers discovered 11 packages concealed in his luggage containing a total of $163,130 in unreported currency.
“This was a great interception by our CBP officers,” said Port Director Severiano Solis, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry. “We would like to remind the traveling public that if they are transporting currency or monetary instruments in excess of $10,000 that they need to declare the currency to a CBP officer upon entry or exit from the U.S. Failure to declare currency or monetary instruments in excess of $10,000 may result in seizure and/or arrest.”
Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S., however, if the quantity is more than $10,000, they will need to report it to CBP. “Money” means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign coins currently in circulation, currency, travelers’ checks in any form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.
Again, this is not just a failure to report/declare cash, but also bulk cash smuggling. In most cases, if you’re hiding money you’re up to no good. But even if you have good intentions, the very act of hiding the money is itself illegal.
Way down in Texas, U.S. Customs & Border Protection seized nearly $150,000 in cash that was hidden in a backpack and a purse, when a two adults and two children were attempting to leave the country.
The seizure was made shortly after 9 a.m. when a 2000 Ford Focus with two adults and two children arrived at the outbound lanes at the Ysleta port of entry. CBP officers were conducting a southbound operation at the time and selected the vehicle for an examination. During the inspection CBP officers located bundles of U.S. currency concealed in a child’s back pack. Additional bundles of currency were located in the purse of the female adult passenger.CBP officers took custody of the driver, a 31-year-old male citizen of Mexico. They also took custody of the passenger, a 27-year-old U.S. citizen female. The subjects, vehicle and currency were turned over to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for prosecution.
The story also re-hashes, in a simple way, the law governing currency reporting requirements into or out of the United States:
“There is absolutely no limit to the amount of currency a traveler can bring into or take out of the United States,” said CBP El Paso Port Director Beverly Good. “The only requirement is travelers must report aggregate amounts that reach or exceed $10,000 to CBP. Failure to do so can result in criminal or civil penalties.”
U.S. law requires international travelers to properly report currency in their possession whether traveling into or departing from the United States.
Again, we have the mistatement of the law that there is a requirement to report “amounts that reach or exceed $10,000” when actually it only must exceed $10,000. But it is not clear if reporting the money in this border crossing scenario could have avoided the seizure of the cash, because it seems as though there was an independent basis for seizure of the money besides the bulk cash smuggling and failure to report; i.e., the money may have a illegal source or an illegal intended use.
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CBP seizes more than $32,000 for currency reporting violations at Dulles and BWI airport last week. The news release reveal the travelers were a U.S. citizen and a Nigerian citizen, and were involved in two separate currency reporting incidents.
Before getting into the details, the news release explains:
“Federal currency reporting requirements are simple. International travelers can carry as much currency as they wish into and out of the United States, but they must report all U.S. and foreign monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or greater on a U.S. Treasury Department financial form. None of the currency is taxed.”
All true, except the reporting requirement applies to “more than $10,000” not “$10,000 or greater.” The story gives some good details on each of the seizures cases:
On Friday, CBP officers seized $13,821 from a Nigerian citizen at BWI. He reported to CBP officers that he possessed $9,000. During a secondary examination, CBP officers discovered British pounds concealed inside a carry-on bag. The traveler then tossed a wad of rolled up currency on the examining table. The currency, which consisted of dollars, pounds and Euros equaled $13,821. CBP officers seized the currency and returned $500 to the traveler for humanitarian purposes.
“The traveler then tossed a wad of rolled up currency on the examining table” after reporting he had $9,000. The wad totaled $13,821. If this traveler had read our article about a case in Miami, he would have known that throwing money at CBP is not the same as reporting it.
The other incident reveals how unhelpful CBP can be at times.
On Thursday, CBP officers seized $18,578 from a U.S. citizen who arrived to Dulles on a flight from Dubai. She initially reported that she possessed $10,000. CBP officers found additional currency and checks during a secondary examination. CBP officers released $322 and two checks totaling $56 for humanitarian purposes.
$322 in humanitarian relief is pretty good. But $56 in two checks? I’ve had clients left with nothing after a seizure. Not even enough change to pay for a baggage cart. I can imagine how grateful this person was to receive two checks that totaled $56. The real reason they returned the checks was because they weren’t worth much, and CBP did not want to go through the trouble of depositing them and including them as part of the seizure
The CBP news release feed has been full of news about various enforcement actions on the immigration side of its mission, but with fewer news releases about currency reporting enforcement. Of course, there was the story about the smuggling of horse meat from Mongolia a few days ago.
There has not been much news about currency seizures, although we have noticed no downturn in cash seizure activity on the part of CBP…. but then CBP released this story out of Presidio, Texas, which is your run-of-the-mill bulk cash smuggling seizure that occurs at our border with Mexico.
PRESIDIO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Presidio port of entry seized $43,514 Tuesday afternoon. The money was discovered hidden in the center console and air manifold of a pick-up truck.
CBP officers were conducting a southbound inspection operation at the Presidio crossing when at approximately 5:25 p.m. a 2010 Ford F-150 pick-up driven by a 27-year-old U.S. citizen from Andrews, Texas, approached the checkpoint. The driver and vehicle were selected for an intensive inspection. During inspection of the vehicle the officers noticed anomalies in the appearance of the vehicle. Inspection of the center console revealed currency bundles wrapped in plastic bags hidden within. Further inspection of the vehicle led to more bundles hidden in the air filter housing and side dashboard panel. A total of nine bundles were removed from the vehicle.
CBP officers seized the money and vehicle and turned the driver to ICE HSI special agents in connection with the failed smuggling attempt. He was arrested and federal prosecution accepted.
“CBP officers are working hard to stop the illegal movement of guns, ammunition and unreported currency,” said Michael Neipert, CBP Presidio port director “Travelers who do not follow federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of losing their currency and may potentially face criminal charges.”
I am impressed that this was called what it was: a bulk cash smuggling seizure. As I’ve pointed out in the past, CBP often calls these failures to report cash; technically true, but not the most accurate name them.
CBP has been busy seizing cash across the country, and that is the reason my customs law blogging activity has slowed down in recent weeks. For the many readers of this blog who like these posts, I apologize. I’ll be trying to return to more frequent blogging in the next week or so.
It seems CBP has also been too busy to make many news releases about the seizure activity, too. But, today, we have word of a pretty huge seizure of $211,000 in cash being seized from a Mexican national while leaving the United States.
From the story below, it was more than just a seizure for a failure to report — but also for bulk cash smuggling. Here is the story, with scant details, but with a picture:
Customs and Border Protection officers at the Mariposa crossing in Nogales, Arizona, arrested a Mexican national Friday for attempting to transport almost $211,000 in unreported U.S. currency.
Officers conducting routine outbound inspections referred a 45-year-old man from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, for an inspection of his Chevrolet truck and found the currency in the vehicle’s dashboard.
Officers seized the vehicle and currency, and turned the subject over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
CBP announced the seizure of around $86,000 in cash from a man in Houston. The seizure took place on December 7, and, sounds like a very unfortunate incident for the man whose cash was seized. In this case, he is a Peruvian national and it sounds like he was only in the United States for a layover on his trip from Japan.
While at the Bush Intercontinental Airport, he went through Customs (presumably to do some more duty-free shopping) when he was taken for a secondary inspection to pay taxes on some cigarettes. For whatever reason, CBP supposedly explained the currency reporting requirement to him and he declared only $4,000.
Apparently, he had keys to some other luggage on his person. CBP located the luggage that those keys belonged to and inspected it, and lo and behold, discovered $86,000 hidden within 8 packages of photo paper. A picture of that concealment is included. Here’s the story:
HOUSTON— U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) seized over $86,000 from a traveler en route to Peru.
A Peruvian national, arriving from Japan, was referred to secondary for duty collection on cigarettes. CBP officers explained the currency reporting requirements and the traveler declared $4,000, Dec. 7.
A baggage exam revealed keys to additional luggage, which the traveler claimed were in Peru. The luggage was located and inspected, at which time CBP officers discovered $100 bills lined within eight packages of photo paper totaling $80,000. An envelope containing over $2,400 was also discovered. In total, CBP seized more than $86,000.
“Travelers have no limit to the amount of currency they can bring into or take out of the U.S.; however, they are required by U.S. law to report if they are carrying $10,000 or more,” said Port Director Charles Perez. “When travelers refuse to comply with federal reporting requirements, they face the risk of having the currency seized and possible civil and or criminal penalties assessed.”
Now, the link provided by CBP is to their own Q&A about currency reporting requirements. Frankly, the advice given their is more or less accurate, except that the law requires a report of more than $10,000, not $10,000 or more. It’s a difference of a penny but that’s the law, so CBP gets it partially wrong.
No word on whether or not this traveler was arrested, but likely they would have mentioned that fact if it was the case with this bulk cash smuggling seizure — money concealed with the apparent intention to not file the currency report. Did this traveler have that intent? Hmm, a tough call — a great argument could be made that he did not!
I’ve not had much time for blogging about customs law, as CBP enforcement seems to have increased lately. But, I did see this story come up about a seizure of money in…. suprise: Texas! Not Dulles this time.
The money seizure occurred at the Del Rio International Bridge. Just three days ago, Customs officers stopped and searched a Mexican woman driving her vehicles out of the United States. During the course of the inspection, CBP found that she had “several bundles of cash in her possession” that totaled $37,901.
Although the story does not explain how, or if, the money was hidden, it does say that she will be prosecuted for bulk cash smuggling. It’s odd that, most of the time these seizure stories form CBP in Texas explain how they money was hidden but only calls those violations a failure to report; in this case, it is not explained how the money was hidden, but is called bulk cash smuggling. It’s becoming my pet peeve.
On to the story:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Del Rio International Bridge recently seized more than $30,000 in U.S. currency from a woman leaving the United States bound for Mexico.
On Dec. 19, CBP officers, conducting outbound inspections at the Del Rio Port of Entry, encountered a 2010 SUV departing the United States for Mexico. During inspection, officers discovered the woman driving the SUV had several bundles of cash in her possession. Officers seized $37,901 in undeclared U.S. currency.The driver, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Mexico, was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations for federal prosecution for bulk cash smuggling – 31 USC § 5332.
“Seizing undeclared currency at ports of entry serves to deprive criminal organizations of their profits,” said Port Director Alberto D. Perez, Del Rio Port of Entry. “Large amounts of currency may be imported and exported with the proper documentation.
“Failure to report international transit of $10,000 or more could mean forfeiture of funds and criminal sanctions.”