Tag: money seized at airport

A picture of CBP canine who discovered unreported cash that was seized by CBP at Dulles Airport in front of the table of cash emblazoned with CBP logo.

Dog Detects Federal Currency Reporting Violations at Dulles Airport

U.S. Customs & Border Protection uses canines to assist its law enforcement functions. When most people think of police dogs, they think of their use in detecting drugs; but they can also be used to find the presence of unreported cash.

And that is the subject of a recent story from CBP in Dulles airport when they seized nearly $75,000 from two men bound for Serbia (also apparently involved in unlawful cash structuring).

STERLING, Va. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized a total of $73,900 from two Serbia-bound travelers for violating federal currency reporting requirements on Monday at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Neither man was criminally charged. CBP officers released the travelers to continue their journey.

CBP officers initially stopped the first man in the jetway to the airplane and asked how much currency he possessed.  The man reported $1,500 verbally and in writing.  CBP officers inspected his carry-on baggage and jacket and discovered four envelopes that contained approximately $50,000.

Meanwhile, CBP’s currency detector dog “Nicky” alerted to another passenger, who then claimed to be the first subject’s son-in-law.  The second man reported that he possessed $7,000, but a subsequent inspection discovered two envelopes in his jacket that contained approximately $20,000.

CBP officers verified that the currency totaled $73,900 in U.S. dollars between the two family members.

In this case, the violations of the federal currency reporting laws did not lead to criminal charges, but theoretically they could be charged within 5 years due to the statute of limitations period. But as always, federal currency reporting laws mean that, even when not criminally charged, asset forfeiture of the cash by customs will still occur. In this case, CBP seized almost all of the money. To get it back, these men will have to show that the money has no nexus to illegal activity and, even if they can do that, they will still likely face a loss of at least 50% of the money; CBP’s guidelines for structuring and bulk cash smuggling are far more stringent than their guidelines for a failure to report.

The Loudon Times-Mirror reported on the same story, and added that the dog, Nicky, is a Malinois dog, and that CBP returned $1,500 to the men and released them to continue their trip, which is generally called a “humanitarian release” by CBP.

Have you violated the federal currency reporting regulations?

If you violated the federal currency reporting regulations, you really need a lawyer. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free cash seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

Texas CBP seized cash. A picture of 19 stacks of $20 and $100 bills part of the cash seized by CBP at Hidalgo International Bridge

Orlando Cash Seizure by CBP

An Orlando cash seizure by U.S. Customs & Border Protection at Orando International Airport is a first for this customs “blawg”. The story from CBP, quoted in part below, describes the events leading up to a seizure. In this case, the cash smuggler was a Spaniard exiting the country for Costa Rica in Orlando. He only reported having $800 cash, not the $100,000 he was found with:

The individual, a Spanish passport holder, was boarding a flight to Costa Rica when stopped for questioning by CBP officers performing outbound operations.  When asked how much money he was carrying the man responded $800. However, upon further inspection of the man and his luggage CBP officers discovered the unreported currency violating federal currency reporting regulations.

The story says this was cash smuggling (a/k/a bulk cash smuggling), but does not explain why. Recall as we’ve explained here before that bulk cash smuggling involves the concealment of cash in any way with an intent to evade the cash reporting requirement.

No word, though, on how it was concealed or what tipped CBP off leading to this big Orlando cash seizure. That’s a fairly big wad of cash; even assuming it was all in $100 bills, that would still be a total of 10,000 Benjamins. The laws are enforced differently by each port, with more of less zeal than others. It could be that the money was just in a carry-on bag in one or two places and CBP considered it bulk cash smuggling because it was not in plain sight and it was coupled with a failure to report. In other words, if I put $100,000 in my bag and, when asked, tell CBP I only have $800 then CBP is pretty safe in presuming that I am evading the reporting requirement and that is why I’ve hid the cash.

On the other hand, the smuggling could be more intentional. It could be that it bundles of currency were sewn into the lining of the luggage, or into the lining of clothing that was then placed in the carry-on. That is a stronger showing of concealment with intent to evade because more planning is involved in sewing the money in a way that avoids casual discovery.

Have you experienced an Orlando cash seizure by CBP?

If you experienced an Orlando cash seizure by U.S. Customs & Border Protection  you can learn more about the process from our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

A CBP Officer displays a large bag of seized currency in an evidence bag. Money seizures are a common occurence for CBP.

Money seizures are always good, says CBP

Here’s a great video from a local news station in the Rio Grand Valley about some of the more interesting seizures that CBP iat that port encounters. It talks about the length to which some people go to hide drugs, but at about the 1:15 mark the public affairs liaison says “money seizures are always good.”

He’s right, you know. CBP has great capabilities in detecting and seizing unreported, smuggled, or structured currency into or out of the United States; CBP can and does target people for money seizures based on factors like, origin or destination, length of stay, time of year, along with obvious factors like nervousness or obvious signs of deception.

Money seizures are good, unless you’re not CBP.

CBP are experts and making money seizures, so you need an experienced law firm on your side to get seized money back from CBP. You can learn more about the process from our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs

What happens to money and property seized by Customs?

Once U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes your money or property it can eventually be forfeited (lost forever to the government); it doesn’t matter if it’s merchandise or cash/currency transported without being reported, structured, or smuggled. Before the property is forfeited the owner can try to get it back (remitted).

But once property is forfeited, it forever becomes property of the United States Government. As a government attorney once told me, it goes to that big government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I don’t think he was joking.

What happens after property is seized by Customs?

First, appraisement: CBP must give anything seized a “domestic value.” This is usually measured by

A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs
A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs (click to elarge)

“price at which such or similar property is freely offered for sale at the time and place of appraisement, in the same quantity or quantities as seized, and in the ordinary course of trade.” Although an oversimplification, this is basically the fair-market value of the seized property at the time and place of seizure.

Customs conducts an inspection of the goods to determine if they are admissible (i.e., whether they can be allowed entry into the U.S.). Certain things, like narcotics, unsafe electrical components, or lead-tainted children’s toys are inadmissable.

What happens after property is forfeited by Customs?

If the goods are admissible, but the importer could not get the property back at the agency or through federal district court, then Customs can:

  1. Destroy it. If Customs determines it violates copyright laws, has no commercial value, or is a safety risk or violates U.S. law, the port director is authorized destroy the forfeited merchandise. If this doesn’t apply, it can be disposed elsewhere.
  2. Sell it. If the merchandise is sold, Customs will notify the importer, the consignee, the shipper, and the warehouse transferee of the sale no less than 30 days beforehand and then hold a public auction, sometimes online, overseen by the port director. This includes perishables, agricultural products, alcoholic beverages, and vehicles. Counterfeit goods may be sold with the permission of the U.S. trademark holder once the counterfeit mark has been obliterated and at least 90 days after forfeiture, provided that no government agency or charitable institution has a need for them. For example, customs has donated seized fossils to the University of Michigan in the past.
  3. Use it. Last, the government can use it. The products must be unclaimed or abandoned, which means nonpayment of duties and 6 months in Customs custody. The port director must give a 30 day notice, as above. Afterward, the items belong to Customs and they can decide to to use it or distribute it to another government agency.

Item 3 is true for seized money/currency. At the completion of all procedures, seized and forfeited money transfers to the U.S. government. If your money was seized by Customs, read our Customs Money Seizure Legal Guide.