Tag: money seizure

U.S. Customs & Border Protection Officer's uniform, featuring the seal of the agency.

Top 10 things to know after a U.S. customs (CBP) money seizure

1. You should expect a CAFRA notice of seizure.

After a customs money seizure, you should expect to receive a CAFRA notice of seizure in the mail. This is different from the custody receipt for seized property you you should’ve received.

2. U.S. Customs is only required to “send” a notice of seizure in 60 days most of the time.

After the U.S. customs seizes money they must send a notice of seizure. In most cases, CBP is not required to confirm it was received, only that it was sent.

3. If CBP sends the notice of seizure and you don’t get it, or its late, your case will suffer.

Someone who has had customs seize cash usually has 30 days from the date on the CAFRA notice of seizure to respond to get money back administratively, or 35 days to take the case to court by filing a CAFRA seized asset claim form. If you do not receive the notice of seizure from Customs, the clock to respond and get your seized cash back from customs is still ticking. Waiting passively for CBP to send the CAFRA notice of seizure will jeopardize your case.

4. You can choose how your case will be handled through an election of proceedings form.

An election of proceedings form is enclosed with the notice of seizure. You must choose an option, sign and return the form as directed to contest your cash seizure case with customs. You should get a free currency seizure consultation before deciding how to proceed to get seized cash back from CBP.

5. Your case will go to court only if you or CBP seeks judicial forfeiture.

Typically the only way you can get your customs money seizure case before a judge is by properly filing a CAFRA seized asset claim form that is signed by you. The detailed instructions for this step are in the notice of seizure and the election of proceedings form.

6. An administrative petition for return of seized cash isn’t an apology letter or explanation.

If you choose to file an administrative petition for returned of seized cash it should not be in the form of an apology letter or explanation to Customs. A notice of seizure is a legal document and requires a legal response. If you admit to a crime or violation there is no way to take it back. If CBP chooses to criminally prosecute you, you will not be able to say you are innocent.

7. You must prove the money was legal.

Whatever election of proceedings option you select, you will have to prove the money seized by CBP was legal and came from a legitimate source. This is most typically done by including supporting documents like affidavits, tax returns, contracts, profit and loss sheets, bank statements, tax returns, business registration certificates, and proofs of employment or income with the administrative petition (if chosen as the option). Be careful not to undershare or overshare with Customs, or accidentally or unknowingly disclose other violations of the law.

Even if you prove the cash seized by CBP was from a legitimate source, you also have to prove that it was going to be used for a legal purpose. This can be a trip itinerary, proof of expenses, medical bills, leases, and other documents.

8. You must be patient; processing times vary by port, sometimes taking a year or more.

If you choose an administrative petition, offer in compromise, or claim, the process can take very long; sometimes a year or more. Doing everything right the first time helps prevent unnecessary delays.

9. Statements made to CBP can be used against you.

It is likely that when you were detained by CBP after the money seizure that you were read your “Miranda rights” and told that you had the right to remain silent. Any statements you made before you were detained and after you were detained and read your rights can be used against you.

10. You may be charged with a crime.

Failure to report cash to customs, structuring cash transactions, and bulk cash smuggling all carry with them civil and criminal penalties. You can be charged either civilly, criminally, or both.

The back of a CBP officer's shirt reading "CBP Federal Officer" in bold yellow letters.

CBP Officer allegedly steals $15,000 from mail

Most CBP officers I’ve encountered ultimately act ethically, even if I occasionally disagree with an overly aggressive approach to certain enforcement measures. But, even one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. In fact, there have been a few bad apples at CBP over the years. You can read about it at Crossing the Line: Corruption at the Border. Note that though I link to it, I don’t necessarily agree with its contents where opinions are offered.

I say this to lead up to a story about a U.S. Customs & Border Protection officer from California who was recently charged with stealing $15,000 worth of checks from a mail facility. The full story is available at Patch.com, but I’m reproducing a portion here. I’m also redacting the name of the accused because I think it’s only fair.

LOS ANGELES, CA – A longtime U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer from Van Nuys is expected in court Monday to face federal charges alleging he stole checks worth over $15,000 from a mail facility and arranged to have an accomplice deposit them.

[He . . . ] was arrested Tuesday without incident by special agents with the FBI and subsequently released on his own recognizance, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The arrest came after [the accused], who has been a customs officer since 2008, was named in an eight-count indictment returned by a Los Angeles federal grand jury last week.

According to the indictment, [the accused] was assigned to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Torrance, where his duties included examining mail and parcels coming into the country for contraband, counterfeit goods, and possible fraudulent financial checks or credit cards.

The [accused] allegedly stole mail that contained traveler’s checks and third- party checks, giving the stolen checks to an accomplice who deposited them into accounts at Bank of America, prosecutors said.

“Americans must be able to trust officials handling their mail which conveys highly valuable information, to include our identification and financial data,” said Deirdre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office. “The FBI is committed to holding accountable those, like [the accused], who abuse their positions of trust and threaten our security for personal gain.”

We get a lot of calls from people who have sent cash in the mail and have had it seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection. One time, we also got a call from someone who had cash seized and was contacted by someone who identified themselves as a customs agent and demanded that, in order to release the cash, she send him some money as a “penalty.” The caller said she never received any sort of written notice about the seizure, which sounded awfully suspicious to us at the time.

If you’ve had money seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection, get a lawyer. You can use our currency seizure legal guide to educate yourself on the process or you can get a free currency seizure consultation and we can discuss the procedures for getting your seized money back.

A picture of a CBP officer watching travelers at an airport. CBP Officers at Philadelphia International Airport seized $26,000 from a couple going to Greece for a failure to report the cash

CBP’s Big Fat Greek Cash Seizure

In Philadelphia, CBP did what you might call a big, fat, greek cash seizure, when they seized $26,000 from a couple who were leaving the United States for Greece.

The couple reported $17,000, but for some reason they did not report the other $9,000, which was found in “multiple envelopes.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized more than $26,000 from a Greece-bound couple who violated federal currency reporting regulations at Philadelphia International Airport Wednesday.

During an outbound inspection, the couple reported verbally and in writing that they possessed $17,000. During an inspection, CBP officers discovered multiple envelopes that contained a combined $27,052. CBP officers provided the couple a humanitarian release of $501 and seized the remaining $26,551.

Officers released the couple to continue their travel to Greece.

Why would the couple fail to report the extra $9,000 to CBP? There are some things we do not know for certain. For example, the CBP officer could have led the couple to believe they only needed to report their own money, not money they were carrying for others; they could have asked them how much money they were carrying “in your carry-on”, when the other money was stashed away in a purse. And they could have panicked.

The story says that the couple was allowed to continue their travel to Greece. Most of my clients who’ve had money seized from Customs have to re-book for another flight, because the process of counting the money and seizing results can be a substantial delay. Sometimes my client’s don’t continue to their destination even if they can, because they have no money to travel with.

I’ve had clients who’ve taken a month off work for a vacation to their homeland, only to have their money seized with no source of funds to continue on the trip until they get their cash back. When CBP seizes cash, it is very often a heartbreaking, stressful, and traumatic experience.

But we are here to help! If you want to learn more about responding to a customs cash seizure in Philadelphia or anywhere else, read our trusted customs cash seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free cash seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

June 10th notice of seizure and intent to forfeit for a money seizure at Detroit Metro Airport

Money Seizure at Detroit Metro Airport in 6/10 Notice

In March 2015, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (Customs) seized $8,188 USD and $4,901.52 of Taiwanese New Dollar cash from a traveler at the Detroit Metro Airport. The seizure was for a simple failure to report cash to Customs (recall here that there is no limit on traveling into or out of the country with more than $10,000, but the money must be properly reported to CBP to avoid seizure).

Just this June 10th, CBP in Detroit published a notice of seizure and intent to forfeit the cash (valued at $13,098.62) for that same violation of law; presumably, the reason for the delay between the seizure over 15 months ago and the publication of the forfeiture notice is that either no one could prove the money was from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use, the person tried to do it themselves without a lawyer (and messed up), or had a lawyer who knew nothing about the process for getting back cash seized by Customs.

To anyone who considers getting back seized money without a lawyer, be forewarned: the process is complex and we have seen many attorneys lose cases that our firm could have won because they don’t know what they are doing. Just this past week, we’ve been undoing the mess of an immigration lawyer who (in my opinion) is about to be responsible for permanently losing around $12,000 for his clients who had a money seizure at Detroit Metro Airport last year.

This person might be in the same predicament; bad advice, or no advice. And as a consequence, good-bye money! Perhaps they’ll get smart and give us a call before they don’t even stand a chance of getting back a penny.

PUBLICATION/POSTING START: June 10, 2016
PUBLICATION/POSTING END: July 09, 2016
DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM: August 09, 2016

DETROIT, MI

2015380700055701-001-0000, Seized on 03/04/2015; At the port of DETROIT, MI; US CURRENCY RETAINED;
118; EA; Valued at $8,188.00; For violation of 31USC5317,31USC5316
2015380700055701-002-0000, Seized on 03/04/2015; At the port of DETROIT, MI; TAIWAN CURRENCY
RETAINED; 480; EA; Valued at $4,910.62; For violation of 21USC5317,31USC5316

Have you had a money seizure at Detroit Metro Airport?

If you experienced a money seizure at Detroit Metro Airport 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.

Over $200,000 in cash laid out for presentation on a wooden table as part of the money seizure in Texas by CBP.

$200k Money Seizure in Texas by CBP

There was a money seizure in Texas by CBP (U.S. Customs & Border Protection) of more than $200,000,

Over $200,000 in cash laid out for presentation on a wooden table as part of the money seizure in Texas by CBP.
CBP officers seized over $200,000 in cash in Eagle Pass, Texas

reported last week. The cash was hidden in the body panels of the vehicle, where it was found by officers when Texas CBP was conducting outbound money seizure inspections. That is classic bulk cash smuggling.

Most of our client’s are not criminally charged as seems to have happened here, but only face civil forfeiture for failure to report, bulk cash smuggling, or structuring. In this case, even if the seized money came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use, it will probably all be forfeited because of the money was concealed. Even in cases where legitimate source and intended use are proven, the money can still be permanently lost because hiding the money from CBP so as to avoid reporting it is a serious crime.

Here’s the Texas CBP money seizure story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Eagle Pass Port of Entry seized a large amount of undeclared U.S. currency recently.

Shortly before 8 p.m., Jan. 22, CBP officers at Eagle Pass Bridge I inspected a southbound 2009 Pontiac G5 before it departed the United States bound for Mexico. Upon inspection, officers found several bundles of cash hidden in a body panel of the vehicle. Officers seized a total of $207,383.

The driver, a 37-year-old man from Humble, was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations for federal prosecution.

Had a money seizure in Texas by CBP?

If Customs and Border Protection seized money from you, you can learn more from our trusted legal road-map of a customs money seizure and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

Two red envelopes with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.

Why some Chinese travel with cash leading to airport seizures

One question I face from most Americans when I tell them that our customs law firm helps people recover from money after customs money seizure is, “Why would anyone travel with all that money?”

Two red envelopes (hongbao) with Chinese characters on them and stuffed with U.S. dollars.
Some Chinese bring money in red envelopes (hongbao) for the Chinese new year celebration to give to family

It’s a good question.The answer? Many foreign governments, China in particular, restrict the amount and method that its citizens can take from the country via capital-controls; when the economy tanks or the currency is devalued, it increases the desire to move the money into another country before the market gets worse.

A few years ago the Wall Street Journal did a story about rich Chinese trying to get their money out of China, in the form of cash, that illustrates this point. The story is Chinese Fly Cash West, by the Suitcase and it provides some insight into why people travel with Cash from China, and why Customs seizes this money from them at airports:

China restricts private citizens from taking out more than $50,000 per individual per year. While it is hard to enforce these restrictions, Chinese authorities are scrutinizing outgoing private cash amid a broad anticorruption drive and as worry grows over the risks of capital flight.

The money seized at airports represents just a sliver of private Chinese money pouring out, but highlights that Chinese citizens are turning to one of the oldest and simplest methods to evade those controls: taking cash out in a suitcase.

The articles goes on to say:

From 2009 to 2011, U.S. airport customs officers seized over $5 million in undeclared cash from Chinese citizens, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That is 8.4% of the total seized and more than double the nearest amount for another nationality.

Transporting large amounts of cash isn’t necessarily illegal. Travelers must declare cash over $10,000 when they land in Canada or the U.S. Most undeclared cash is temporarily seized and subject to fines. If customs agents believe the cash comes from illegal activities, the onus is on the traveler to prove otherwise before it is returned.

I would correct this final paragraph with a few legal subtleties. If any amount of money is undeclared to customs, all of the money transported may be seized and, if legitimate source and use are not proven to Customs, will be forfeited forever (i.e., lost). This burden is on the traveler whether or not Customs believe the cash comes from illegal activities. It must always be proven.

Moving cash from China subjects a person to fines in China:

In China, violators of Beijing’s rules on moving out cash are also subject to fines. From 2007 to 2011, China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange levied such fines totaling 1.27 billion yuan ($202 million), according to the most recent data available.

The story goes on to state that seizures from 2009 to 2011 dramatically increased at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and San Francisco for money seized by Customs from Chinese nationals. But the numbers seized by U.S. Customs were smaller than that seized by Canadian customs. Apparently because property rules rules and investor visas are easier to obtain.

The New York Times also published a story we tweeted about:

I’m sure the cash is flooding the U.S. market now for the same reasons. Customs will seize unreported money from any Chinese traveler or immigrant at any U.S. airport if they catch them.

Border Patrol Seizes $138k in Cash

Not quite a customs currency seizure, but similar enough to the topic and the stories we write about on this customs law blog that I thought it good to share it, for those interested. Border patrol seized around $138k in cash that was stashed away in the tailgate of a pick-up truck being driven by a 40 year old U.S. citizen. Border patrol does exactly what their name indicates; the patrol the borders. In this case, nothing in the story suggests that the vehicle was attempting entry into Mexico so I would say this stop did not occur “at the border” where the government can essentially search you without limitation. Because it did not occur “at the border” the police would have had to get a warrant to search the vehicle, or it would have to fall under one of the warrant exceptions. The driver made this easy for border patrol, because he consented to the search of his vehicle anyway (oops). That’s always a bad idea. Here’s the story:

U.S. Border Patrol agents patrolling Interstate 5 arrested a man on Tuesday who had a large quantity of illicit cash hidden inside the tail gate and other areas of his truck.

More than $130K was concealed inside this truck.
More than $130K was concealed inside this truck after requesting permission from 40-year-old U.S. citizen to search the back end of his truck.

At approximately 8 a.m., agents on southbound Interstate 5 stopped a 2004 Chevrolet Colorado truck. Agents approached the 40-year-old U.S. citizen and received permission to search the back end of his truck.

A quick glimpse with a flashlight revealed that the tail gate interior was filled with bundles of cash. Agents arrested the man and transported the vehicle to a nearby station for further investigation. Agents found additional bundles of cash behind the truck tail lights and in the man’s pockets. More than $130K was concealed inside the truck between the tail-gate and tail-light body panels.

The search yielded a seizure of $137,017 in U.S. currency. The man was turned over to agents from Homeland Security Investigations for currency smuggling. The cash and vehicle were seized by the U.S. Border Patrol.

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. 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?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case

Customs officers seize hidden cash

Last month, CBP seized $65,000 from a Mexican national for “failing to declare” more than $65,000 in currency. They released the individual’s name, so that means he is being criminally prosecuted. Though CBP calls this a “failure to declare” it is really failure to declare (or to report) and bulk cash smuggling, because the money was concealed in the seat of the vehicle. Check out the image below. As we always note, this case differs from the scenario usually faced by our clients, which is a customs seizure of money at the airport for failure to report.

Customs officers seize hidden cash behind automobile seat.
Customs officers seize hidden cash behind automobile seat, totaling more than $65,000 in US currency.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested a 24-year-old Mexican national Wednesday (July 22) for failing to declare more than $65,000 in U.S. currency when he attempted to cross into Mexico through the Port of Nogales.

Officers conducting outbound inspections at the Dennis DeConcini crossing selected a Ford sedan, driven by Marco Allan Nevarez-Guzman of Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico, for further inspection and found unreported money hidden behind the vehicle’s seats.

Officers processed the vehicle and currency for seizure, arrested and referred Nevarez to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

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. 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?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case

CBP at Dulles Airport Seizes $72K over 3 days

CBP seized over $70,000 from 3 travellers at Washington Dulles airport recently. This was reported yesterday by CBP (read it here), with some additional follow-up in an article at the Washington Post (read it here).

The Washington Post does an alright job of reporting why the currency was seized, but understandably mixes up its legal terminology; seizure is different from forfeiture. Likewise, a “simple” failure to report violation does not, in and of it self, give rise to a bulk cash smuggling violation. Failure to report is money is not reported, or is not accurately reported; bulk cash smuggling is when money is hidden on a person or in their effects with purpose and intent that, by hiding it, they will avoid the requirement, to file a currency report.

Here is the story from CBP. Notice no criminal charges were filed yet:

STERLING, Va. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized a combined $72,095 in unreported currency from three travelers at Washington Dulles International Airport over the past three days.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers may bring to, or take from the U.S. However, federal law requires travelers to complete financial reporting forms for any amount that exceeds $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

The first seizure occurred Saturday when a U.S. lawful permanent resident who arrived from Iran reported verbally Keep Calm and Contact Your Customs Attorneyand in writing that she possessed $10,000. While inspecting the woman’s luggage, CBP officers discovered Euros equivalent to $27,525 in U.S. dollars and $2,135 in U.S. currency for a total of $29,660.

On Sunday, a U.S. citizen arrived from Dubai, U.A.E., and reported verbally and in writing that she possessed $10,000. While examining her luggage, CBP officers discovered a total of $20,435.

The final seizure Monday occurred during an outbound international flight enforcement operation. A man destined for Ukraine reported to CBP officers that he possessed $15,000 and completed a financial reporting form stating that amount. During a search of the man’s carry-on baggage, CBP officers discovered an additional $8,000. CBP officers seized $22,000 and released $1,000 back to the man for humanitarian purposes.

CBP officers seized all currency, a combined $72,095, and released all three travelers.

CBP officers provide travelers with multiple opportunities to truthfully report all of their currency. Travelers who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements risk having their currency seized, and potentially face criminal charges.

“Seizing a traveler’s currency is not a pleasant experience, but there are severe consequences for violating U.S. laws,” said Wayne Biondi, CBP Port Director for the Port of Washington Dulles. “We hope that these seizures are a lesson for all travelers that the easiest way to hold on to their currency is to honestly report it all to a Customs and Border Protection officer.”

In addition to currency enforcement, CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international flights and intercepts narcotics, weapons, prohibited agriculture products, and other illicit items.

If you have had your currency seized, please 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?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case