Tag: nigeria

CBP's Hold Harmless and Release Agreement Form

Class Action and CBP’s Hold Harmless and Release Agreement

An interesting cash seizure issue has been percolating across the Internet that arises from the class action (lawsuit) filed by a Texas nurse who is originally from Nigeria, though now a U.S. Citizen. As I understand it (after briefly skimming the complaint), she attempted to leave the country with around $40,000. She did not report the money to CBP as required, and so the money was seized for a failure to report.

What happened after her cash was seized?

Upon receiving the notice of seizure, instead of filing a petition she filed a claim. This is generally not the best way to get money back. When a claim is filed, you request the government to start judicial forfeiture proceedings, rather than administrative. I am greatly simplifying the process but, basically, when a claim is filed a judge will hear the case and eventually, some day, theoretically, you will have a trial by judge or jury about whether or not you can get seized money back. If a petition is filed, you instead are asking CBP to decide the matter internally without putting it before a judge.

Did the government file a complaint for forfeiture?

In this case, because she filed a claim the U.S. attorney had the discretion to decide whether or not they would pursue judicial forfeiture, or not. As luck would have it, the U.S. attorney declined by not filing a complaint for forfeiture. The way the plaintiff’s attorneys read the law (which so far, I agree with), this means CBP must return the money, immediately. Instead of doing that, CBP asked her to sign a hold harmless and release agreement that gave up her right to sue the government for seizure, and anything incidental (interest, emotional distress, etc.).

She refused to sign the hold harmless and release agreement, and CBP refused to return the money. Now she is suing the government for a whole host of things, including for a return of the cash. I don’t blame her for standing on principle; but she must not need the money terribly bad to tie this up in the courts.

What will the effect of this case be?

This case is very interesting, and raises a number of questions; first and foremost is, why did the U.S. attorney’s office not file a complaint for forfeiture once the claim was filed? I think they did not realize that once a claim is filed and a complaint for forfeiture is not filed timely, the property must be returned. In other words, someone at the U.S. attorney’s office did not realize the full consequences of what they were doing and probably believed that administrative forfeiture proceedings may still go forward.

Secondly, perhaps there were staffing issues (i.e., not enough personnel) that prevented the U.S. attorney’s office from wanting to handle judicial forfeiture proceedings, so they put it off.

In my experience, cash seizures at George Bush Intercontinental Airport are pretty infrequent compared with other ports. There might not be a lot of push to process these cases, especially so in Texas. With drugs and other contraband pouring across the border, why spend time seizing money likely to be from legitimate sources? They have better places to direct their resources then pretty obviously legitimately derived money.

What does this mean for people who have their cash seized?

This case, no matter the outcome, probably has little meaning for people who have had their cash seized. First, anytime a client of mine has filed a claim seeking judicial forfeiture, the U.S. attorney’s office has fought the forfeiture, usually tooth-and-nail. I have no reason to believe that this will result in less cash seizures nationally. I also do not believe this reflects a desire by the government to avoid judicial forfeiture if a claim is filed. I think this is probably a very unique case. Therefore, I see no reason to start filing claims instead of petitions in the hopes of getting back the money without a fight, and without proof of its source and use.

If this plaintiff wins her case, this will only mean that if a claim is filed and a case is not started by the government, you get the money back without having to sign a hold harmless and release agreement. I believe that this type of situation has very, very infrequently happened, and so the class number of people involved, although not insignificant, will be small.

Can she still be charged criminally for a failure to report cash?

Yes, this woman can still be charged criminally for a failure to report cash — she remains in that legal jeopardy. The failure to report transporting more than $10,000 in cash into or from the country is a criminal offense, and the government has 5 years from the date of seizure to charge her with this crime.

It does not matter that the money was legitimately derived or intended for legitimate uses, she still committed the crime of not reporting the cash; seizure is only one potential penalty, the others are arrest, fine, and imprisonment.

I suspect that the government is now weighing heavily the option of criminally charging the woman. I hope her attorney’s explained this risk to her. Maybe some things are worth waiting 5 years for.

In any event, I will be keeping a watchful on this case as it develops. Stay tuned for updates.

Baltimore Customs Seized Cash on Private Flight

Baltimore CBP doesn’t make it into the news too much for cash seizures, but recently it was reported that they seized more than $11,000 from a Nigerian money leaving the country. The story is different from many in that he wasn’t flying commercial, but rather flying on a private aircraft.

The story explains a valuable lesson: the customs law apply equally to commercial and private flights. Here’s the whole story, as told by CBP:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than $11,000 in unreported currency from a Nigerian man who departed the United States late Friday night aboard a private aircraft.

While examining a passenger manifest from the departing flight, CBP officers identified a man with previous federal currency reporting violations.  The man also failed to report any currency on this trip nor did he complete a financial reporting form as required by law.  CBP officers conducted a compliance examination and discovered $11,647 in U.S. dollars, British pounds and Euros.  CBP officers seized all the currency.

“Chartering a private flight does not alleviate travelers from the responsibility of complying with applicable U.S. laws and regulations, including federal currency reporting requirements,” said Dianna Bowman, CBP Area Port Director for the Area Port of Baltimore.  “This seizure should remind all travelers that Customs and Border Protection border security authority covers all departing and arriving international travelers, whether on commercial or private aircraft.  It is one way in which CBP contributes to our nation’s security.”

Privacy laws prohibit CBP from releasing the traveler’s name since he was not criminally charged.  The traveler was departing for London, England.  CBP officers released him to continue his travel after officers completed the currency seizure.

Have you had cash seized from CBP at Baltimore Washington International Airport?

If CBP at Baltimore Washington International Airport has seized your cash, you need a lawyer. Read 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.

 

U.S. Money Seized by Customs (CBP) Stacked on a Table with Envelopes

CBP Seizes Money for Currency Reporting Violations at Dulles & BWI Airports

CBP seizes more than $32,000 for currency reporting violations at Dulles and BWI airport last week. The news release reveal the travelers were a U.S. citizen and a Nigerian citizen, and were involved in two separate currency reporting incidents.

Before getting into the details, the news release explains:

“Federal currency reporting requirements are simple.  International travelers can carry as much currency as they wish into and out of the United States, but they must report all U.S. and foreign monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or greater on a U.S. Treasury Department financial form.  None of the currency is taxed.”

All true, except the reporting requirement applies to “more than $10,000” not “$10,000 or greater.” The story gives some good details on each of the seizures cases:

On Friday, CBP officers seized $13,821 from a Nigerian citizen at BWI.  He reported to CBP officers that he possessed $9,000.  During a secondary examination, CBP officers discovered British pounds concealed inside a carry-on bag.  The traveler then tossed a wad of rolled up currency on the examining table.  The currency, which consisted of dollars, pounds and Euros equaled $13,821.  CBP officers seized the currency and returned $500 to the traveler for humanitarian purposes.

“The traveler then tossed a wad of rolled up currency on the examining table” after reporting he had $9,000. The wad totaled $13,821. If this traveler had read our article about a case in Miami, he would have known that throwing money at CBP is not the same as reporting it.

The other incident reveals how unhelpful CBP can be at times.

On Thursday, CBP officers seized $18,578 from a U.S. citizen who arrived to Dulles on a flight from Dubai. She initially reported that she possessed $10,000. CBP officers found additional currency and checks during a secondary examination. CBP officers released $322 and two checks totaling $56 for humanitarian purposes.

$322 in humanitarian relief is pretty good. But $56 in two checks? I’ve had clients left with nothing after a seizure. Not even enough change to pay for a baggage cart. I can imagine how grateful this person was to receive two checks that totaled $56. The real reason they returned the checks was because they weren’t worth much, and CBP did not want to go through the trouble of depositing them and including them as part of the seizure

If you had cash seized for a currency reporting violation, make use of our free customs money seizure legal guide or contact us for a free currency reporting violation consultation!

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 Seizes $12K at Baltimore Washington International Airport

CBP issued a news release about the seizure of little more than $12,000 from a woman traveling from a woman traveling from the UK to the USA who did not report the currency at Baltimore Washington International Airport.

Is it a big deal? Yes, any violation of the law is a big deal and carries with a potential for criminal prosecution, heavy fines, jail time, forfeiture (loss) of the money, along with shame, embarrassment, and everything else.

But is such a big deal that should make headlines? I don’t think so. These kind of cash seizures happen all the time all around the country at airports and land border crossings between the United States and Canada. There’s a lot more noteworthy seizures and even more noteworthy cash seizures that CBP could make public, but does not. Why? I have no idea.

The only purpose I see in reporting a relatively small violation of the reporting requirement — where the violator was not criminally charged and was even advised to file a petition — is that it serves some public good in making it known to others that they need to report cash if carrying more than $10,000 into or out of the United States.

Without further ado, here is the meat of the story from CBP:

BALTIMORE — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO), at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport seized $12,322 Tuesday from a Nigerian woman for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

A woman, who arrived on a flight from the United Kingdom reported carrying $9,000 to CBP officers however; multiple envelopes of currency totaling $12,322 was discovered in her luggage. CBP officers seized the $12,322 returning $322 for humanitarian release and advised her how to petition for the return of the currency.

Have you had cash seized from CBP at Baltimore Washington International Airport?

If CBP at Baltimore Washington International Airport has seized your cash, you need a lawyer. Read 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.

CBP Seizes $38 Million so far in FY 2015; $15k from Nigerian Traveler

In the story below, CBP officers in Houston seized more than $15,000 from a Nigerian traveler at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport who was leaving the country for Nigeria. The story gives us some new interesting figures; so far for this fiscal year Customs has seized nearly $38 million from people all across the nation. Last year they seized a total of $81 million, or $650,000 per day. That’s a lot of cash!

Now the story itself is unremarkable so I’m not sure why it merited a “news release” from Customs. This is the typical situation where we represent our currency seizure clients; when they make an inaccurate report to Customs. Here’s the text:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at George Bush Intercontinental Airport seized $15,841 from a traveler flying to Nigeria.

The 38-year old Nigerian man was waiting to board a flight to Lagos, Nigeria when CBP officers asked him if he was transporting more than $10,000 in monetary instruments. The traveler declared carrying $6,400 of his own and another $4,400 for a friend.

CBP officers advised the traveler that currency reporting requirements for anyone arriving and departing the U.S. must be declared on CBP Form 503 and the declaration must include all currency. The traveler was allowed to complete the CBP Seizure of $15krequired form but when officers verified the amount of currency, an additional $5041 and about $74 in Nigerian currency were discovered in the traveler’s backpack.

CBP officers found a total of $15,841 in U.S. currency which was seized for attempting to export currency exceeding $10,000 without filing a report. The Nigerian currency was returned to the traveler for humanitarian purposes as he was flying into that country.

“There is absolutely no limit to the amount of currency a traveler can bring into or take out of the United States,” said Houston CBP Port Director Charles Perez. “The only requirement is to declare amounts that reach or exceed $10,000.”

From Oct. 1, 2014 through Mar. 30, 2015, CBP officers nationwide seized nearly $38 million.Last fiscal year, officers averaged $650,117 in undeclared or illicit currency seizures per day totaling more than $81 million, nationwide.

Travelers can avoid seizure by declaring currency when the amount reaches $10,000. International travelers carrying more than $10,000 into or out of the United States must report the amount they are transporting or risk the currency’s seizure.

Currency declarations are made by completing FinCEN Form 105 and giving it to a CBP officer. Currency is not limited to U.S. currency but all negotiable monetary instruments including Traveler’s Checks, money orders and securities. A complete list of negotiable monetary instruments is available on FinCEN Form 105.

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?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations