Tag: mitigation

WPM Mark

Regulated Wood Packaging Material (WPM) and Penalties

Nearly 5 years ago, we blogged about Regulated Wood Packaging Material (WPM) violations, and the trouble it can get importers into. You can read all about that in Regulated Wood Packaging Material Customs Violations. CBP’s page with links to various WPM resources is accessible on CBP’s website HERE.

But, now something has changed. Pursuant to the old CBP guidelines, an importer could have 5 WPM violations in one year before they were penalized. However, as of November 1, 2017, and importer is liable for a penalty in the first instance of a WPM violation.

The new frequently asked questions published by CBP and summarize the change thus “Effective November 1, 2017, responsible parties with documented WPM violation may be issued a penalty. This is a change from the previous published tolerance of five WPM violations.”

This change was initially broadcast through customs Cargo Systems Messaging Service (CSMS #17-000612). That message states the reason for the change in enforcement as follows:

To motivate WPM compliance, effective November 1, 2017, responsible parties with a documented WPM violation may be issued a penalty under Title 19 United States Code (USC) § 1595a(b) or under 19 USC § 1592.  This is a change from the previous published threshold of 5 violations.  There will be no yearly reset for calculating repeat violations as each WPM violation may incur a penalty.

So, importers: be motivated.

Can an application to separate violative wood packaging material still be filed?

Yes, the new guidelines still permit importer’s to file an application to separate violative wood packaging material to avoid re-importation of the merchandise.

If you have been informed that you wood packaging material is in violation of the law and needs to be re-exported, immediately contact us and we can prepare an application to separate violative wood packaging material so that, if it is granted, you do not have to undergo the time and expense of re-exporting the merchandise you are trying to import.

Can WPM penalties be mitigated?

Yes, WPM penalties can be mitigated. Never pay full price in a penalty proceeding! If you have received a notice of penalty or liquidated damages and are being told you must pay as a result of the violation, immediately call or e-mail our office at (734) 855-4999 and we can prepare a petition for mitigation of the penalty amount.

CBP Cash Seizure Chicago O’Hare Airport

On April 12, 2016, some poor soul in Chicago had over $16,000 currency seized at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. For what, you ask? Well, judging from the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit published Friday last, some violation of Title 31 of the United States Code.

PUBLICATION/POSTING START: June 24, 2016
PUBLICATION/POSTING END: July 23, 2016
DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM: August 23, 2016

2016390100067501-002-0000, Seized on 04/12/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 768; EA; Valued at $16,210.00; For violation of 31USC

As can be seen, the notice published on the forfeiture.gov contains, what I assume, is a clerical error. Typically, these notices will contain a host of laws violated. 31 USC is not a law, but rather, an entire book of laws that outlines the role of money and finance in the United States. It is most likely that the money was seized for purported violations of the usual suspects; 31 USC 5316, 31 USC 5324 and/or 31 USC 5332.

My sources tell me that O’Hare International Airport recently began permitting on-site mitigation of cash seizures valued at less than $25,000, to ease the processing burden on the folks who handle the petitions filed with FP&F Chicago. Customs policy permits individual ports to choose to offer on-site mitigation when the persons are transporting less than $25,000 and they mis-report an amount that is 5% or less in variance with the actual amount being transported.

If on-site mitigation was an option, the likely explanation for the seizure still occurring is a misreport of 5% or more in the amount that was being carried by the traveler. Over the years, we’ve helped a lot of people who have their cash seized by CBP at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Do not let your cash seizure case in Chicago get to the point that CBP publishes a forfeiture notice.

Did CBP seize cash from you at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport?

If you have had currency seized from Chicago CBP, please contact us in Chicago at (773) 920-1840. Our customs lawyer in Chicago’s office is a short walk from U.S. Customs & Border Protection Chicago’s Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures office.

$19k Customs Currency Seizure Mitigated at Airport On-site

U.S. Customs seized $19,050 from a U.S. citizen leaving for Lebanon at Dulles Airport on Monday using a currency detection dog. The seizure of $19,050, was mitigated on-site, meaning the passenger did not have to go through the petition process — with its inherent delays — to get the seized money back.

As far as I am aware, on-site mitigation is only available to those persons who are transporting less than $25,000, and who mis-report an amount that is 5% or less in variance with the actual amount being transported. I am not sure how this case qualified for on-scene mitigation because the mis-report was greater than 5%, but this gentleman should consider himself lucky.

Here is the FULL STORY, excerpted below:

The man was boarding a flight to Lebanon via Germany when he was identified by a CBP officer, working with his currency detection canine, as carrying a rp_IAD-K9-24k-Seizure-LOW-042114.jpgsignificant amount of currency. The man repeatedly declared $15,000 however; a total of $19,050 was discovered on his person and in his luggage. CBP officers seized the $19,050, assessed a $1,000 penalty for failure to properly report the currency, and returned $18,050 to the traveler.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers can import or export; 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,” said Wayne Biondi, CBP Area Port Director for the Port of Washington Dulles. “The traveler was given the opportunity to truthfully report his currency. The easiest way to hold on to your money is to report it.”

If you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999. 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.

Customs Money Seizure Radio Interview

Customs lawyer Jason Wapiennik will be interviewed today at 4:30 EST on Detroit’s AM 680/690 by certified Arabic interpreter Ratib Habbal in a live interview that will be translated from English into Arabic. We will be discussing common questions with regards to customs money seizures, getting seized money back from Customs, and other areas of Great Lakes Customs Law’s many practice areas.

The interview can be heard live by visiting the WNZK‘s live audio stream HERE.

$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.

Reducing Penalties through Prior Disclosures of 1592 Import Violations

Importing into the United States requires the importer exercise reasonable care, but competitive market forces and human nature can create the temptation to reduce expenses and maximize profits by finding new ways to save money through questionable application of the customs laws. Failing to exercise reasonable care, however, means possibly being penalized by Customs for import violations under § 1592.1 This means, among other things, an importer must make sure that they are classifying the merchandise properly. under the correct duty rate, giving accurate dutiable values and descriptions for the merchandise, marking the country of origin correctly, and much more. Failure to do so could cost you dearly in the form of severe monetary penalties, among other potential penalties, imposed by Customs.

"I think we could lessen our penalty exposure if we make a valid prior disclosure."
“Say, our customs attorney says we can lessen our penalty exposure if we make a valid prior disclosure to U.S. Customs for those import violations we found.”

CBP encourages importers who may have committed a violation to make a “prior disclosure.” If an importer becomes aware of § 1592 violations, they should not wait for Customs to notify them of the violations and demand payment of duties and penalties; rather they should act immediately and pro-actively and disclose violations or potential violations to Customs so that they can take advantage of significant penalty reductions allowed for those who disclose violations prior to a Customs investigation. This “prior disclosure” process is a formal notice, usually in writing, made to Customs regarding the circumstances of a 1592 violation. 19 CFR § 162.74.

How to Make a Valid Prior Disclosure

For a prior disclosure to be valid, a person must first make the prior disclosure before, or without knowing, that Customs has begun a formal investigation into the potential violation2; also, if the amount of duty loss is known, tender any actual loss of duties, taxes and fees or actual loss of revenue to Customs. In addition to this, the person must disclose the circumstances of the violation, including:

(1) Identif[ying] the class or kind of merchandise involved in the violation;

(2) Identif[ying] the importation or drawback claim included in the disclosure by entry number, drawback claim number, or by indicating each concerned Customs port of entry and the approximate dates of entry or dates of drawback claims;

(3) Specif[ying] the material false statements, omissions or acts including an explanation as to how and when they occurred; and

(4) Set[ting] forth, to the best of the disclosing party’s knowledge, the true and accurate information or data that should have been provided in the entry or drawback claim documents, and stat[ing] that the disclosing party will provide any information or data unknown at the time of disclosure within 30 days of the initial disclosure date. [ . . . ]

19 CFR 162.74(b).

It should be noted that, because the issues that go into making a valid prior disclosure are often complex, when properly done a person can still initiate a valid prior disclosure while avoiding immediate payment of suspected duty loss, and get additional time to assemble all the necessary information.

How Penalties Can Be Reduced or Avoided

Meeting these requirements will qualify the person for substantial penalty reductions in the event that penalties are appropriate. In order for Customs not to levy penalties at all Customs must find the absence of fraud, the presence of negligence or gross negligence, and the merchandise must be unliquidated. In the case of negligence or gross negligence and liquidation has already occurred  the penalty will be “the interest on any loss of duties, taxes and fees” “at the prevailing rate of interest” under the Internal Revenue Code. 19 CFR § 162.73(b)(2).

If the violation is a result of fraud and a valid prior disclosure is made, the penalty may be reduced from the equivalent to the domestic value of the goods and to only the amount of lost duties, taxes and fees, or if not duty loss, then just 10% of the dutiable value.

If you believe or have a question about whether you should make a prior disclosure, or have concerns about representations made to Customs or omissions  it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney experienced in customs law and prior disclosures. Please contact our office today at (734) 855-4999, or by visiting our contact page.

  1. In summary, if any person does or attempts to enter or introduce merchandise into the United States by means of any material omission or material and false document, written or oral statement, or act that has the potential to alter the classification, appraisement, or admissibility of merchandise Customs will impose costly penalties on the violator. Bear in mind that Customs can impose penalties  – civil, criminal and monetary – under a variety of federal laws, not just under 1592. []
  2. A prior disclosure can still have some benefit after a investigation has begun []

U.S. Customs money seizure in Maine

The Bangor Daily News out of Maine reports on some noteworthy monetary instruments seizures in 2012 by U.S. Customs, including this one:

In one incident the agency highlighted, two Houlton Border Patrol agents seized $89,808 in U.S. currency, $10,440 in Western Union traveler’s checks and $200 in Canadian currency from two men from Canada.

The money was apparently was connected with:

. . . a telephone fraud scheme that preyed on the elderly. The scam involved the subjects advising the elderly of a grandchild or other relative desperately in need of money, and instructing them to wire funds. The victims were subsequently bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. US Canada Border Marker

[  . . . ] The $100,448 initially seized by Border Patrol agents was returned to 18 of the victims.

No mention of the exact legal basis under which the money was seized, or exactly how this fraud scheme became unraveled at the border. I suspect somebody was trying to smuggling the money of the country to evade detection, and taxes, when CBP made the discovery and began putting the puzzle pieces back together.

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 an inexperienced lawyer. You worked hard for your money, so be sure to protect it. If you have questions, please give us a call.

To further inform yourself, please read the various articles I have written on this and related topics. But do not let it replace the advice of attorney who is familiar with the law and your particular circumstances.

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?