Tag: money

Commentary on CBP money seizures in Philly

There is an interesting news release from CBP¬†about some money seizures in¬†Philadelphia¬†that goes beyond the usual “facts-only” narrative style and ¬†standard statements about the role of CBP in a¬†typical CBP news release. I find it so interesting, in fact, that I am quoting it in full and providing my own commentary in¬†red below:

Philadelphia ‚ÄĒ International travelers who arrive or depart the United States in possession of more than $10,000 are required to report all currency to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and complete a Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) form. Those who deliberately refuse to comply with this federal currency reporting requirement face hefty consequences, from mitigated penalties to having their currency seized.

This is not quite right, because there are others who ¬†“face hefty consequences” apart from those who “deliberately refuse to comply.” This includes people who are ignorant or misinformed about the monetary instrument reporting requirements, people who do not know how much money they are carrying — which could be because they did not count it or forgot it was in a pocket on a suitcase from a prior trip, or people who do not know they are over the limit because they are carrying foreign currency and do not know the exchange rate.

My point: deliberate refusal is just one way to get your money seized. It is definitely not the only way to get money seized, which is what Customs says in this news release. The reporting requirement law is written so that even unknowing violations are still violations. So accidents or other non-deliberate acts can, and often will, result in a seizure of money by Customs.

For example, I know many of my clients are unaware of the reporting requirement. ¬†Others are aware of it but have a vague understanding of what it means for them, what is included as a monetary instrument, and how it is to be reported.¬†Others know of the reporting requirement but think it does not apply in their situation.¬†Finally, there are those who know it applies to them and they intend to make the report. But, when confronted by a uniformed Customs official they are intimidated, panic stricken, or their words are misconstrued. Then the official takes their nervous response for a “deliberate refusal” and tells them to be quiet while they search their bags. They are not given a further opportunity to to file a report or even make a verbal report.¬†

Other times Customs officers will ask a question like: “How much money do you have on you?” or “How much money is in your wallet?” This question will trigger a truthful response like “a few thousand.” The problem with this scenario is that there may be only a few thousand in their wallet or¬†on their person,¬†but there is a bag in the trunk of their car or two fat envelopes in their checked baggage that has $15,000 in it. So in this case Customs has asked the wrong question, the person has given the correct response, and they are most likely going to get their money seized.

Obviously, I take issue with a question like “How much money is in your wallet?” because the real question should be “How much money are you transporting?” Sure, if you are a confident person, not intimidated by uniformed officers, and know the reporting requirement like the back of your hand then you might say, “Well, I have $2,500 in my wallet, but in my wife’s baggage there are two envelopes with a total of $9,860 and I have a notebook in my carry-on luggage with another¬†‚ā¨5,000, too.” This is the correct response to any question about your money, but who would think to respond like that when all they ask about is your wallet?

So because the person does not give a full disclosure and only answers the question asked by Customs, they will be taken to an area where the person thinks they will have a chance to make a report about what the officer didn’t ask about, count the money, and make the report. Then the officers conduct a secondary examination, searching their vehicle or their baggage and find all the money that was not reported to Customs — and they seize it, after lengthy questioning where the person misses their connecting flight or whatever appointments they might have.

Now here is the problem: The question about what is in their wallet is unfair if asked to try to elicit a violation of the reporting requirement. Yes, other questions are more fair, and more accurate. However, Customs does not have to ask anything at all. Knowing about the reporting requirement and making the report is entirely up to the person who is transporting the money. So even if Customs asks the trick wallet question, or they say nothing at all, you still have to file a report and file it correctly. My problem with trick  questions is that it seems  designed to elicit a violation rather than achieve compliance.

The story continues…

A Russian man learned that lesson the hard way after CBP officers seized $34,500 from him Thursday afternoon at Philadelphia International Airport. During a secondary examination, the Russian man claimed verbally and in writing that he possessed $9,000; however, CBP officers counted $35,000. CBP officers released $500 to the man for humanitarian relief and provided him directions on how to petition the U.S. government for the remaining currency.

This is just the standard petition process, but you also have other options. Usually the petition advice is not received until given the notice of seizure, which can come days, weeks, or even months after the money seizure occurs. The length of times varies on the investigation, case load, and size of the port.

CBP officers assessed a mitigated $1,000 penalty to another Russian man who arrived on the same flight. That man also reported possessing only $9,000; however CBP officers discovered a stack of bills in his baggage. All currency equaled $18,800.

Well, good for this man who got his money back on the scene Рusually any mis-report by 5% or more will not be returned on the scene; however, if the total amount is $25,000 or less and no further investigation into the incident is deemed warranted and the traveler has documentation showing legitimate source and legitimate intended use and there is no nexus to criminal activity, then the money can be returned.

‚ÄúCustoms and Border Protection officers offer travelers multiple opportunities to truthfully report their currency, but those who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements face severe consequences, such as hefty penalties, or having their currency seized, or potential criminal charges,‚ÄĚ said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the area port of Philadelphia.¬†‚ÄúThe easiest way to keep your currency is to truthfully report it.‚ÄĚ

I know that this is sometimes true, but I am also sure that this is not always true. I know many clients had ¬†opportunities to report transporting more than $10,000 in money but there are many have also been subjected to “zealous enforcement” and asked trick questions without sufficient opportunity to make, or amend, a report. ¬†Sometimes the philosophy of some Customs officers is to “seize first, ask questions later.”

My clients also report intimidating behavior while they are being detained, like back-slapping, laughter, high-fiving among officers about their seizure prowess, unfounded threats of criminal prosecution, and Dirty Harry type comments like, “This ain’t your first time at the rodeo.”

It is also true, as this news release says, that the easiest way to keep your currency is to report it; but Customs can still theoretically seize your money if you have under $10,000 and they think you are “structuring” to avoid to have to file a report, or if you report over $10,000 but lack good documentation about the source and use of the funds, or if they believe it has some connection to criminal activity.

The story continues…

Philadelphia CBP recorded three additional currency reporting violations recently and one ended in the seizure of $17,516.

  • CBP issued a mitigated $500 penalty to an Israeli man April 18 who claimed that he possessed $10,000; however CBP officers discovered an additional $860 in his pockets.
  • CBP issued a mitigated $1,000 penalty to a Swiss mother and her Israeli son April 10 after CBP officers discovered $23,146 in U.S. dollars, Swiss francs and Israeli shekels. The pair, who arrived from Switzerland, reported possessing a combined $10,100 U.S. dollars and 7,700 Swiss francs. CBP officers discovered multiple bundles of currency during a baggage examination and inside a travel pillow. [See, this type of discovery makes Customs suspicious — but if you are traveling internationally it makes perfect sense to keep the money in different locations in your personal effects so that if lost or stolen, not all your money is lost or stolen. But, in this case the different locations probably resulted in a ¬†a charge of failure to report and bulk cash smuggling.]
  • CBP issued a mitigated $1,000 penalty to a British man April 5 after CBP officers discovered that the man possessed $20,839 in U.S. dollars and British pounds. The man, who arrived from the United Kingdom, declared possessing only $9,000. CBP officers discovered several bundles of British pounds and two envelopes containing U.S. currency.
  • CBP seized $17,516 from a Nigerian woman who arrived March 29 after CBP officers discovered that she possessed $19,016. The woman claimed that she possessed $7,000; however CBP officers found more than $7,000 during an examination of the woman‚Äôs purse. CBP officers released $1,500 to the woman for humanitarian purposes and provided the woman directions to petition for the remaining currency.
  • In each case involving mitigated penalties, CBP officers required the travelers to complete a FinCEN form.

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.

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

So there you have 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.

 

Customs Money Seizure of $376,510

Customs & Border Protection discusses a recent money seizure in a news release available by clicking HERE.  This time it was a Mexican national travelling from the U.S. to Mexico, who advised Customs that the items he was transporting in his truck were picked up at a swap meet. According to the story:

During the search of the truck, which was loaded with items the man said he purchased at a swap meet, officers found a box supposedly containing lawn furniture. The box actually contained seven packages of unreported U.S. currency totaling $348,840. The vehicle and cash were seized.

Then at the same port, on the same day and different man and vehicle were inspected, and:

During the search a zip-lock bag, a fast-food sack and a brownie mix box were discovered concealing unreported U.S. currency totaling $27,670.

A picture of this rich and chocolaty brownie mix was also included as part of the story.

These individuals were arrested and face charges for bulk cash smuggling under state law. 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 they are ultimately found not guilty of a crime, they will still face civil forfeiture of the money and, if they want it back, will have to fight for its return administratively, or in the courts.If these individuals are found not guilty of a crime, then they face the  potentially difficult task of proving a legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the money. 

So, if you have had currency seized from Customs, I strongly advise against trying to do it yourself 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 does not regularly handle these types of matters.

To 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. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

CBP Seizes Money at Texas Port of Entry

We bring these cases to our reader’s attention not because many honest people find themselves with thousands of dollars hidden underneath their vehicle’s floorboards in a secret compartment (although it has happened to some of my honest clients), but because they do allow me to bring to the public’s attention the laws surrounding the transportation of more than $10,000 in money across the border and seizure of that money.

Customs and Border Protection, in a recent news releaseCBP Seizes Money Texas Port Of Entry discusses the seizure of $80,000 as a result of a failed smuggling attempt to take the cash out of the country in a

concealed compartment and without filing a currency report disclosing the source of the money and intended use of the money. Thus, it was seized and the driver arrested for smuggling.

The news release states as follows:

CBP currency detector canines searched the vehicle and alerted to the floor. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents continued their search and located a hidden compartment in the floor of the vehicle. They removed multiple tape-wrapped bundles of money in the compartment.

If this individual is found not guilty of a crime, then he faces the ¬†potentially difficult task of proving a legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the money.¬†In this case, we could give the man the benefit of the doubt and presume the legitimate source is the proceeds the sale of valuable pieces of art to an eccentic U.S. art collector and the intended use, perhaps he was intending to open a small restaurant in Mexico City. That’s just my guess, and yes, I have handled more bizarre but true cases.

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.

To 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. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.

U.S. Customs Money Seizure of $460,000 in Smuggled Currency

CBP reports that a money smuggling attempt in Nogales, Arizona, was stopped. This story looks similar in dollar amount — $464,00 seized – amount as a money seizure by¬†U.S. Customs and Border Protection¬†near the Port of Laredo, which I blogged about here.

Us Customs 460k Smuggled Money Seizure
Picture of currency hidden in a nightstand.

This time, though, instead of the money apparently being hidden in the vehicle itself, it looks like it was hidden in a nightstand. Either way, hiding it is most likely going to result in a charge of smuggling, which is basiscally what bulk cash smuggling amounts to.  This resulted in a seizure of the vehicle and the money itself.

For more information on money seizures by U.S. Customs, the reporting requirements, structuring violations, bulk cash smuggling, and how to get seized currency back, please visit our page devoted to discussion of currency seizures, and also read these articles:

And of course, if you have had your money seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, do not delay and call our office immediately at (734) 855-4999! You can also fill out our form and we will contact you, or drop us an e-mail by visiting our Contact page.

Getting back money seized by U.S. Customs when overseas

In the Legal Roadmap of a Customs Money Seizure series of articles we published, we explain how Money going down the drain U.S. Customs may seize your cash (currency, whether U.S. or foreign), and any monetary instruments for failing to report transportation of more than $10,000 when entering or leaving the country, for bulk cash smuggling, and/or illegal currency structuring.

That means if you are flying into the U.S. or leaving the U.S. from an airport or land border crossing and you are transporting more than $10,000, do not file a report, have concealed they money, or have divided the cash with others, U.S. Customs (CBP) may seize your money on-site, at the airport or border crossing.

A cash seizure while traveling is problematic because you will not be at your normal residence (or in your own country) for a period of time and you might not receive the CAFRA notice of seizure. The legal problem is that, as we explained in responding to a cash seizure, you might not receive the notice of seizure (because it’s lost or there’s no one to sign for it), or receive it too late.

A cash seizure when traveling overseas also creates problems even if you do receive the notice, because without representation, you will have to burden your friends or relatives with the lengthy and detailed process for getting your seized currency back from U.S. Customs, or because you will have to get them involved in your private and financial affairs.

But after hiring Great Lakes Customs Law as your customers lawyer, we can obtain the CAFRA notice of seizure on your behalf, and usually get it issued more quickly than normal. If we represent you, we make the process as seamless and simple as possible for you. By hiring Great Lakes Customs Law immediately after seizure, U.S. Customs will send the CAFRA seizure notice direct to our offices.

We then prepare the necessary petition with your cooperation and file it with Customs for you without your direct involvement. If you choose, we can directly receive the money in the form of a paper check, or via direct deposit into a bank account. If desirable, this returned seized money can then be wiredto your overseas bank account, which is something that Customs will not do.

We at Great Lakes Customs Law can represent you while you are staying overseas and you will not have to bear the additional burden and expense of making a return trip to the United States to gather evidence, submit your petition, or receive your money.

If you have had cash seized by customs please read our Legal Roadmap of a Customs Money Seizure and click the button at the top of this page to us or e-mail us to schedule you free currency seizure consultation.

 

 

CBP seizes $460,060 in unreported currency

The Laredo Sun reports on a recent currency seizure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Laredo, Texas, from a 31 year U.S. citizen from Chicago who was transporting $460,060  as he attempted to drive across the border to Mexico. Something tipped the officers off as he left the U.S., and they pulled him and his vehicle aside for a secondary inspection to verify the amount of money being transported.

The money was apparently concealed in various parts of his vehicle. I can only imagine how long it took them to count it all out and the condition of the truck. If this individual is not prosecuted by the government for criminal violations, he faces the  potentially difficult task of proving a legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the money (not to mention fitting all the plastic interior trim pieces back like new).

car_crossingIn this case, 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 on the¬†Riveria Maya. That’s just my guess, and yes, I have handled stranger cases.

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.

This news story gets a lot of things right about the currency seizure process because they note you can petition for the return of the currency and that the person transporting the unreported currency is subject to arrest for criminal violations.

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.

Our customs law firm handles currency/money seizures made by customs in Detroit and around the country; call (734) 855-4999 to consult with a customs lawyer today (you can read our popular page on Responding to a Customs Money Seizure HERE).If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page (see our case results here). 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 customs currency seizures:

  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

Responding to a Customs currency seizure

If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please inform yourself on the process by reading this article and then contact 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.

What documents should I have gotten and what will I get?

At the time of a currency seizure, Customs probably gave you a “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence” form (6051S), which will have some different numbers at the top, including an FPF No. so that your case can be tracked at Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures office (“FP&F”) of Customs. This form should show what exactly was seized, the name of the seizing officer, and Customs’ contact information — usually for the local FP&F branch of Customs. FP&F should then send by certified mail a formal written notice of seizure (“CAFRA Seizure Notice” or “CAFRA Notice”). You should get it within a few days as long as Customs has your correct address, which they may have asked for during your initial detention at the border or port. You will have 30 days from the date on the letter¬†(not the date the letter is received) to respond.
10kWe do not recommend contacting Customs by yourself until you have at least spoken to an attorney. Any statements you make to Customs, whether while you are being detained or by telephone, can be used against you. You may be panicked and say something that is misinterpreted by Customs as an admission of wrongdoing, or might make them suspect you are involved in something illegal. That will make it harder to get your money back. Therefore, we recommend contacting an attorney with experience in customs seizures immediately after receiving the CAFRA Notice. In any event, if you have not received this notice within 7 days of the seizure you should contact an attorney so they can request a copy of the notice of seizure for you, make sure that a timely response is made, or an extension of time to respond is requested and granted. This will help you make sure you preserve all your rights and options and improves your chances of  successfully getting all or most of your money back.

CAFRA Notice of Seizure & Election of Proceedings

CAFRA stands for “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act” and is, in our practice, the law that most of my client’s currency seizures fall under. After you’ve been detained and released, the CAFRA Notice you receive will have a basic explanation of the facts surrounding the seizure, including: the date and place of seizure, surrounding circumstances, and the facts Customs’ alleges are the basis for the seizure. The CAFRA Notice is a formal document, and should be treated and responded to as such. How and when you respond to the CAFRA Seizure Notice will determine the outcome of your currency seizure case!

What are my options for getting my seized currency back from customs?

The CAFRA Notice will also cite the applicable laws, including failure to report, bulk cash smuggling, or a currency structuring violation to evade the reporting requirement, among others. It will also list your options to respond to the CAFRA Notice, which include:

  • Filing a Petition for Remission or Mitigation (including the right to file a Supplemental Petition after decision on the first Petition)
  • Pay the Full, Appraised Domestic Value of Seized Property
  • File an Offer in Compromise
  • Abandon the Property
  • Institute Judicial Proceedings
  • Do Nothing

The details of these options are explained in the CAFRA Notice, and Customs will include and ask you to complete and return what is called an “Election of Proceedings” form. This form will require you to select one of the above options. The advice we give to our currency seizure clients varies with the circumstances of each seizure case. Do not decide how to respond to a CAFRA Notice without first consulting an attorney. There may be times when a Judicial Proceedings make more sense than filing a Petition, and a qualified attorney can help you weigh those options and make that decision. Any mistake or error in judgment you make can cost you dearly. The majority of the time, however, I do recommend my client’s to file a Petition for Remission or Mitigation as the best option. The Petition, when filed by our¬†office, is a legal memorandum that contains detailed factual narrative with our¬†client’s side of the story, what led to the seizure, a review of the relevant law, regulations and Custom’s own guidelines concerning the seizure. When the facts allow for it, my Petition will always include a strong argument for return of the money in full, or even when there is a valid basis for the currency seizure, a strong argument for the money to be returned upon payment of a fine in the smallest amount of money possible, rather than forfeiture of all your money.

How can I find out more or hire a law firm to help with my customs currency seizure?

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?

Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?

Sometimes the failure to file the required report with Customs leading to a currency seizure arises because there is a mistaken assumption that only currency, or only U.S. currency, needs to be reported. This is wrong.

The reporting requirement applies to all monetary instruments. This is a legal term, defined in at least two places. First, 31 USC 5312 defines them, in relevant part, as:

(A) United States coins and currency;

(B) [ . . .] coins and currency of a foreign country, travelers’ checks, bearer negotiable instruments, bearer investment securities, bearer securities, stock on which title is passed on delivery, and similar material; and

The Federal Regulations, namely 31 CFR 1010.100(dd), provides a more detailed definition
as to what is included in the definition of  monetary instrument, including:

(i) Currency;

(ii) Traveler’s checks in any form;

(iii) All negotiable instruments (including personal checks, business checks, official bank checks, cashier’s checks, third-party checks, promissory notes (as that term is defined in the Uniform Commercial Code), and money orders) that are either in bearer form, endorsed without restriction, made out to a fictitious payee (for the purposes of ¬ß1010.340), or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery;

(iv) Incomplete instruments (including personal checks, business checks, official bank checks, cashier’s checks, third-party checks, promissory notes (as that term is defined in the Uniform Commercial Code), and money orders) signed but with the payee’s name omitted; and

(v) Securities or stock in bearer form or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery.

(2) Monetary instruments do not include warehouse receipts or bills of lading.

It is noteworthy that the statute says it includes the foregoing, with the implication that just because a type of monetary instrument is not listed will not, by necessity, mean that is excluded from the reporting requirement.

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?

Penalties for monetary reporting violations

Is it a crime to transport more than $10,000 without reporting it?

Yes, it is a crime to transport more than $10,000 without reporting it if you are entering or leaving the United States. There are both criminal and civil penalties for failing not report carrying more than $10,000, but not everyone is charged with a crime. A person can be charged criminally or just be responsible for a civil violation, as well as forfeiture of your monetary instruments.

What are the criminal penalties for not reporting more than $10,000?

The criminal penalties for not reporting more than $10,000, or omitting or misstating a material fact in a report potentially brings with it criminal penalties. That includes, depending on the severity of the violation, a fine ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 and/or prison time from 5 to 10years.

What are the civil penalties for not reporting more than $10,000?

The civil penalties for not reporting more than $10,000 is a fine of not “more than the amount of the monetary instrument for which the report was required.” Any civil penalty assessed for a violation of failing to report currency at the border is reduced by the amount of money that was forfeited (forfeiture is a permanent loss of the money to the government).

What are the penalties for structuring a transaction to avoid filing a currency report?

The penalties for structuring a transaction is avoid filing a currency report are similar. The relevant law makes it illegal, when importing or exporting more than $10,000 in monetary instruments,  to:

(1) fail to file a report . . . , or cause or attempt to cause a person to fail to file such a report;
(2) file or cause or attempt to cause a person to file a report required . . . that contains a material omission or misstatement of fact; or
(3) structure or assist in structuring, or attempt to structure or assist in structuring, any importation or exportation of monetary instruments.

If structure cash in any of these ways you could be be fined and/or imprisoned for no more 5 years. There are additional, higher penalties when done as “a pattern of any illegal activity involving more than $100,000 in a 12-month period.

In addition to the criminal penalties for structuring cash there are also civil penalties. 31 USC 5321. The amount of the civil penalty will not be greater than the amount involved in the transaction, and that amount shall be reduced by the amount of any monetary instruments forfeited.

Will a civil penalty for a cash reporting violation stay on my record?

IA civil penalty for a cash reporting violation will not stay on your record for most purposes. That is, if you’re not criminally charged then the only people who will ever be able to find out this happened is the government agencies who have access to your travel record. Customs will always have a record when you cross the border that you were transporting currency and failed to file a report. This will, in all likelihood, mean that you will at some point while crossing the border be questioned about whether or not you have currency or have your baggage examined. There is nothing that can be done to avoid that, except if it becomes unfair you can file a complaint through the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).

If you are not criminally charged you will not have a criminal record.

Questions about a customs cash seizure?

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 like our trusted customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?

Title 31 of the U.S. Code, § 5316, is the law requiring that a report be filed when leaving or departing the U.S. for a (1) knowing (2) transportation (in the past, present or future) of (3) monetary instruments (including currency, U.S. or foreign) (4) of more than $10,000  (5) at one time.

Each of the elements numbered 1 through 5 above have a legal definition too detailed for an article this short, but suffice it to say that the terms “knowing,” “monetary instruments,” and “one time” 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.

When leaving or arriving to the U.S., how do I know if I need to file a report?

Some believe the $10,000 reporting requirement is per person, meaning that if there are two people then the reporting requirement is raised to $20,000, and $30,000 for three people, and so forth; or, they also think that if no single person has on them or in their luggage more than $10,000, there is no reporting requirement. This is usually not true.

Some particular examples

So to what scenarios does the reporting requirement apply? Let’s look at a few examples that assume a hypothetical husband and wife traveling together:

  1. Husband is transporting $8,000 for himself, and $7,000 for his wife. Is there a reporting requirement? Yes, Husband needs to file a report because Husband is transporting more than $10,000 at one time.
  2. Husband wants to transport $18,000. Trying to avoid filing a report, Husband gives $9,000 to Wife to transport and he transports $9,000. Is there a reporting requirement? Yes, Husband needs to file a report because, among other things, he is causing more than $10,000 to be transported at one time. It is also the crime of structuring.
  3. Husband and Wife are each transporting $6,000¬†for their own account. Is there a reporting requirement? No, neither Husband nor Wife need to file a report because the money is for their own account¬†(but see the “Cautionary Disclaimer” below).

Cautionary disclaimer

In the case of currency seizures, for whose account the money is and who is carrying it is often a difficult matter to prove. It really guts the distinctions in the first three scenarios, especially in #3. It is difficult, if not impossible, to sufficiently prove for whose account cash currency is being carried, especially between a husband and wife, or other family, and especially if transported in baggage. It’s a lot easier if you are carrying money orders or traveler’s checks made payable to either husband or wife. When in doubt, disclose everything and file a report.

If you do not file a report and you raise the suspicions of U.S. Customs, or you play fast and loose with the rules and you will get your currency or monetary instruments seized. 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?