Tag: imports

U.S. Customs Seizure of $2M in Counterfeit Handbags

Customs made another high value seizure of counterfeit merchandise being imported into the United States with infringing trademarks under 19 USC 1526. Customs seized 198 counterfeit “Hermes Birkin” handbags that they allege infringe the a trademark.  The manufacturer’s suggested retail price, if the counterfeits were genuine, is $1,861,200. That is what the penalty amount will be calculated from.

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. This story underscores the importance of everything we discussed in those articles: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2  (click to read). 

SAVANNAH, Ga. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations at the Port of Savannah, Ga., seized 198 counterfeit Hermès Birkin handbags October 6. Had the goods been genuine Hermès Birkin handbags, CBP import specialists estimated that the merchandise would have had an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $1,861,200.

This seizure is the Port of Savannah’s third multi-million dollar seizure of counterfeit goods this year.

The shipment, manifested as polyurethane handbags, arrived to the Port of Savannah September 4 from China. It was destined to an address in Atlanta.

“Counterfeit goods pose a potentially serious safety threat to consumers and economic loss to U.S. businesses,” said Lisa Beth Brown, Area Port Director in Savannah, Georgia. Enforcing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) remains a top trade priority for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

The counterfeit handbags will be destroyed. In July, CBP officers seized 377 cartons of counterfeit sunglasses with an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $1,619,550. … In April, CBP officers seized more than $1 million in counterfeit soccer apparel.

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 violative of the trademark laws.

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 importer 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 Detention and Inspection for Smuggling

There are several reasons why imported merchandise might undergo a customs detention. Usually merchandise is detained for inspection so U.S. Customs & Border Protection can assess the admissibility of the imported merchandise or to verify the declared country of origin, preference claims, classification, valuation, and whether or not the merchandise is prohibited or restricted based on any number of laws and regulations enforced by customs. In some cases, customs detention of shipments, or a customs inspection, is caused by suspected smuggling. For example, shipments of tile have been detained in the past because smugglers were using tile to conceal heroin shipments.

Customs made two such recent drug busts this weekend during inspection of imported merchandise. The first story (accessible HERE) found more than three pounds of “heroin was contained in several cylinders and concealed in a shipment of flowers” with an estimated street value of $150,000.

Inspection and Customs Detention of Imported Merchandise
Heroin concealed in Flower Import

In a second seizure story, a customs detention of imported cargo found over 3,000 lbs worth of marijuana smuggled into the U.S. and manifested as Christmas bows:

Officers ran the tractor and trailer through the port’s imaging system and it showed anomalies with the cargo.  Officers probed one of the boxes and extracted a green-leafy substance that field-tested positive for marijuana.

Officers subsequently extracted 209 large packages of marijuana from inside the boxes, valued at $1.5 million.

Inspection and Customs Detention of Imported MerchandiseU.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Otay Mesa Cargo Facility Thursday afternoon discovered 3,370 pounds of marijuana in a shipment of Christmas bows. [ . . . ] The CBP officer referred the driver [of the truck] for a more in-depth examination. [ . . . ]

Officers ran the tractor and trailer through the port’s imaging system and it showed anomalies with the cargo.  Officers probed one of the boxes and extracted a green-leafy substance that field-tested positive for marijuana.

Officers subsequently extracted 209 large packages of marijuana from inside the boxes, valued at $1.5 million. [ . . . ] CBP seized the marijuana, tractor and trailer.

The images are from each of the shipments. As you can see, although the heroine was mingled in with flowers, there was apparently no effort made to conceal the marijuana with actual Christmas bows.

If you have received a notice of detention, have merchandise under intensive examination by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or reach out through our contact page. We are able to assist at ports around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places.

 

Customs Seizure & Penalty for Counterfeits and Uncertified Engines

Importing is a tricky business that presents a trap for the novice. You may think you can import merchandise that can be used to make a few quick dollars on because of a high profit margin. The story below falls into that category.

This person attempted to import 300 Wii controllers, 400 USB convertors, and 200 small motorcycle engines. If successful, there was some money to be made. But the problem was the Wii controllers and USB converters were counterfeit, and the 200 small motorcycle engines lacked an important EPA certification.

The consequences? Customs seized the counterfeits and the small motorcycle engines are an importation contrary to law because of the failure to have certification by the EPA.

PORTAL, N.D. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers recently targeted a rail container at the port of Portal, North Dakota. In February 2014, CBP officers inspected the rail container and discovered merchandise that violated multiple laws and regulations. The merchandise consisted of approximately 300 counterfeit Wii remote controllers, 400 counterfeit USB converters and 200 small motorcycle engines that were not certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

CBP determined that the trademark was counterfeit on the Wii remote controllers and USB converters. As a result, CBP seized those items. The counterfeit merchandise had a Keep Calm and Contact Your Customs Attorneymanufacturer’s suggested retail price of $20,800. In addition, CBP seized the small engines that were found not to be certified, as required by the EPA. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the engines was $16,400.

“CBP continues to play a key role in Intellectual Property Rights enforcement,” said Brent Beeter, the Port Director in Portal. “CBP continues to stay focused on combating the illegitimate trade in counterfeit products.”

Stopping the flow of illicit goods is a Priority Trade Issue for CBP. The importation of counterfeit merchandise can damage the U.S. economy, and threaten the health and safety of the American people.

With the growth of foreign trade, unscrupulous companies have profited billions of dollars from the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods. To combat the illicit trade of merchandise violating laws relating to intellectual property rights (IPR), trademark and copyright holders may register with CBP through an online system. Such registration assists CBP officers and import specialists in identifying violative merchandise.

CBP’s IPR enforcement strategy is multi-layered and includes seizing violative merchandise at our borders, pushing the border “outward” through audits of suspect importers, cooperating with our international trading partners, and collaborating with industry and governmental agencies to enhance these efforts.

Many fail to grasp the importance of customs seizing counterfeit or uncertified merchandise. The reason might be a failure see the harm that it causes to the owner of the trademark, by confusing their purchasers and destroying a reputation for quality, or just not caring about the consequences in quest for making themselves some money. To those and others, I say: Consult a customs attorney who is well acquainted with the laws enforced by the customs service and who can judge the legality of the transaction, even getting advice from customs in advance.

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit trademarked merchandise or for importations contrary to law. We can help. You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, 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 penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles:

 

 

Customs Seizure & Penalties for Fake & Faulty Hairdryers

Many fail to grasp the importance of customs seizing counterfeit merchandise. The reason might be a failure see the harm that it causes to the owner of the trademark, by confusing their purchasers and destroying a reputation for quality. Another reason might be because they never got scammed into buying a product at full price… only to find out it is a worthless counterfeit. But sometimes counterfeits are dangerous.  Like electronics with a fake testing laboratory certifications, or those missing legally required safety features. The story that follows perfectly demonstrates the reasons why customs seizes counterfeits and often penalizes people who import them (original HERE):

HOUSTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have seized nearly 5,000 hair dryers as the required Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters that

Images from Seizure

protect consumers from electrical shock or electrocution hazards were missing. The hair dryers, which originated from China, have a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of almost $330,000. “This seizure is the latest example of the vigilance and attention to detail our officers pay to protect consumers from imported goods

Image for Seizure

that pose a dangerous risk,” said CBP Houston Area Port Director Dave Fluty. During an examination of the shipment, officers found the dryers missing the immersion protection plug and bearing a suspect trademark logo. Officers coordinated with Consumer Product Safety Commission and with the CBP Intellectual Property Rights Rights [sic] Branch, Regulations and Rulings, Office of International Trade to verify authenticity. The CBP IPR Branch confirmed the products were counterfeit, and a CPSC evaluation of product samples concluded the required immersion protection plug was missing resulting in the seizure of the entire shipment that contained more than 400 boxes of the faulty articles. According to CPSC, consumers should look for a large, rectangular-shaped plug at the end of the hair dryer cord indicating the presence of a GFCI. The certification mark of a recognized testing laboratory should also be visible on the hair dryer or on the hair dryer’s packaging.

The individual who caused the importation is now liable to customs for penalties for 1) importing counterfeits into the United States under 19 USC 1526 and 2) importations contrary to law under 19 USC 1595a, because there was no GFCI on the hairdryers. It will prove to be a costly mistake. As we have previously explained, the penalties for the trademark violation are equivalent to the MSRP of genuine articles, or in this case almost $330,000; the penalties for importations contrary to law is equivalent to the domestic value of the imported merchandise, which is likely far less than the $330,000 figure and equivalent to, more or less, the price actually paid for the merchandise. I am sure any penalty in this case will be for at least $330,000.

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit trademarked merchandise or for importations contrary to law. We can help. You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, 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 penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles:

 

Failure to Declare Jewelry at Chicago Customs

Recently, customs in Chicago made a large seizure of jewelry from an arriving passenger for a failure to declare jewelry that was purchased abroad. The full story, which I quote below, is a lesson in the penalties for violations of 19 USC 1497, which is the law that allows seizures and penalties for a passenger’s failure to declare jewelry and other imported merchandise.

This failure to declare will prove to be a costly mistake. There are three things the importer must do to get out of this mess:

  1. Pay the original duties ($30,043.75)
  2. Pay any penalty levied (maximum $691,553)
  3. Get the jewelry back (petition for remission after the notice of seizure)

The penalty will, no doubt, be issued for the full amount allowed by law which is the value of the seized property. The importer will have 60 days to either pay the full penalty or request a penalty reduction based on customs mitigation guidelines for failure to declare. Those guidelines basically state that for commercial violations of this type he should end up paying anywhere from 3 to 8 times the duty that was owed. That means somewhere between $90,000 and $240,000.

If ever I saw a person in dire need of a customs lawyer, this is it. If you’re out there and reading this give me a call at (734) 855-4999.

CHICAGO —U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport seized a cache of jewelry worth almost $700,000 on Thursday. A 65-year-old U.S. citizen was selected for examination by CBP officers as he arrived from Paris via a flight London.

The passenger claimed nothing on his Automated Passport Control (APC) declaration, his written declaration and confirmed to CBP officers that he had not made any purchases or acquisitions on his trip. Upon examination of his baggage, CBP officers noticed receipts for various boxes containing what appeared to be high end jewelry, invoices and receipts. Some lose jewelry was discovered concealed in pockets of articles of clothing within his luggage. A total of 29 high value jewelry pieces were identified.

Upon discovery of the jewelry, the passenger provided CBP officers with the values of each item and stated that he works as jewelry distributor in the United States. Computer checks indicated that the passenger has imported jewelry in the past on several occasions.

The total estimated domestic value of all 29 items is $691,553. The jewelry was seized under 19 USC 1497, failure to declare. The passenger faces a maximum penalty equal to the domestic value of the undeclared merchandise and forfeiture of the jewelry. Had the passenger made a proper declaration, he would have paid $30,043.75 in duty.

As mentioned above, the importer can respond to customs’ notice of seizure and the subsequent notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to return the property and 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 may bring a lawsuit against them 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 had a failure to declare jewelry to Customs or had other property seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount.

We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide.

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 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.1 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.2

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.

  1. 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. []
  2. 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. []

International Parcel Seizures by Philly CBP

I am sharing this story with readers of my customs law blog as it dovetails well with guidance recently provided to customs about customs liability for internet purchases. Although the seizures in questions below are certainly more of an intentional variety, but are nevertheless instructive because the parcel inspection and seizure process by customs is the same whether the goods are prohibited, restricted, or if there are mistakes made in the import process. In other words, importing steroids or illict street drugs is dramatically different from importing something that you are unaware is not properly marked with country of origin, or for which the shipper provided a incorrect value on the commercial invoice used during the customs declaration process.

On to the story from customs:

PHILADELPHIA – One of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s lesser known enforcement priorities is examining incoming international parcels to hunt for a wide variety of prohibited and illicit products, such as weapons, narcotics, currency, insects and food. Hunting was good this past week.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the international express courier facility near Philadelphia International Airport recorded six khat seizures totaling about 150 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnailpounds, 140 tablets that contained codeine, and 16 vials of steroids.

The parcels were destined to Everett, Mass., Riverwoods, Skokie and West Dundee in Illinois, Minneapolis and Rochester in Minnesota, and Cromwell, Conn.

“We know that U.S. consumers will attempt to purchase products they know to be illicit or illegal from overseas sources through the internet. Our best advice to them is caveat emptor, buyer beware,” said Tarance Drafts, acting CBP Port Director for the Port of Philadelphia. “Inspecting international parcels for dangerous and illicit products remains a Customs and Border Protection enforcement priority. There’s a great chance we’ll get our hands on your purchase before you do.”

The seizures started February 27 when CBP officers intercepted a parcel manifested as “Adidas junior bags” destined for Cromwell, Conn. Officers x-rayed the parcel and detected an anomaly that proved to be 24 pounds, 4 ounces of khat.

CBP officers then made two khat seizures Wednesday, one weighed 22 pounds, 3 ounces and was in a parcel manifested as “document procedures” destined for Skokie, Ill. The second parcel, manifested as “reports,” contained 15 pounds, 14 ounces of khat destined for West Dundee, Ill.

CBP officers also seized the codeine tablets Wednesday in a parcel manifested as “samples” destined for Rochester, Minn. The tablets were a product identified as Solpadeine, which is an over the counter product in Europe, but the codeine makes it a Schedule III drug in the U.S.

Thursday seemed like Groundhog Day, as CBP officers made two additional khat seizures. The first, 23 pounds, 9 ounces, was in a parcel manifested as “mobile phone accessories” and destined for Minneapolis. The second, 16 pounds, 12 ounces, was in a parcel manifested as “project development group report” and destined for Skokie, Ill.

The final parcel Thursday contained 10 vials of 10 ml each of Decatest 350 and six vials of 10 ml each of Megabol 275. The parcel was manifested as “Non Documents Amino Methyl Propanal” and destined for Everett, Mass.

In the largest seizure this week, CBP officers seized 46 pounds, 15 ounces of khat today that arrived in a parcel manifested as “Decorative Artistic Handicrafts” and destined for Riverwoods, Ill.

The 150 combined pounds of khat has a street value of about $45,000.

Khat is a green, leafy plant typically grown in the Arabian Peninsula and chewed for its stimulant effect.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies khat as a schedule 1 narcotic – the most restrictive category used by the DEA – when the leaves are freshly picked. Its principal components, cathine and cathinone, are considered controlled substances in the United States. Please see the DEA Khat Fact Sheet.

The World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse in 1980. It is chewed for its stimulant effect and retains its potency for up to 48 hours after being harvested.

CBP routinely conducts random inspections operations on passengers and air cargo searching for narcotics, currency, weapons and other prohibited or illicit products as part of its border security mission.

The individuals to who these seized shipments were destined will receive a notice of seizure from customs explaining the reasons for the seizure; they will then be asked to respond to the notice of seizure by affirmatively abandoning the property, petition for its return, and a few other choices. No matter how the notice of seizure is responded to, it’s possible that in addition to criminal charges, those connected with the importation of these items will also be facing a civil penalty for the unlawful importation.

If you have had merchandise or 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. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount. We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, New York, and Los Angeles.

Currency Reporting Violations and the Global Entry Program

As some of my currency seizure clients have come to find out, failing to properly report currency over $10,000 being transported out of the United States can result in removal from trusted traveler programs. This news release from my local port of Detroit by customs confirms it:

Detroit – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Detroit Metro Airport announces that three travelers enrolled in the Global Entry program have been removed due to zero tolerance violations of program rules.

Global Entry is a CBP program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. The program benefits CBP and participating foreign governments by allowing them to focus efforts on unknown and potentially higher risk air travelers, thereby facilitating the movement of trusted travelers in a more efficient and effective manner.

“Global Entry provides a level of trust not afforded to regular air travelers,” said Devin Chamberlain, CBP Port Director. “Violations of any kind will result in removal from the program.”

The violators, all returning U.S. citizens failed to declare personal use steroids and prescription drugs and failed to report the transport of currency over $10,000. Two events occurred February 26 and the last March 1, 2014.

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