Tag: notice of seizure

The CBP global entry line at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Detroit Metro Airport CBP Seize $59,451 Cash

Finally, a CBP cash seizure press release from my own home port of Detroit that happened at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which is just a few miles down the road from our office. This one involves a U.S. citizen returning from China with his wife; together, the couple was found to be transporting more than $10,000 cash through Customs…. about $50,000 more, actually.

Here’s the full story from Detroit CBP:

DETROIT— On November 28, 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized $59,451 in U.S. currency from a United States citizen after he failed to report the currency to CBP officers. The traveler is a member of the Global Entry trusted traveler program.

The male traveler and his wife arrived in Detroit on a flight from Beijing, China. He initially denied carrying $10,000 or more in U.S. currency or its equivalent in foreign currency. CBP Officers questioned the traveler as he and his wife attempted to exit the federal inspection area separately 13 minutes apart. Further inspection led to the discovery of $59,451 divided between the two.

“You must report to CBP that you are carrying $10,000 or more in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency or other monetary instruments when you travel into or out of the United States, especially if you are a member of Global Entry.” said Devin Chamberlain, CBP Detroit (Airport) Port Director. “There is no limit as to how much currency travelers can import or export. However, the law requires travelers to report when they carry at least $10,000 in monetary instruments.  Violators may face criminal prosecution and forfeiture of the undisclosed funds.”

As you can see, this story involves both a failure to report cash to customs and unlawful cash structuring. As we’ve explained time and time again at this customs law blog, cash will be seized by Detroit CBP if it is divided between a husband and wife (or other family members) traveling together and CBP has cause to believe it was done for the purpose of avoiding filing the currency report on form FinCen 105.

Had cash seized at Detroit Metro Airport by CBP?

If you’re like the people in this story and have suffered a cash seizure by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) at Detroit Metro Airport, you’re in need of a lawyer to help you get your money back and potentially avoid criminal prosecution or inquiry. Every case is different and nuances, exceptions and interpretations are almost always present making each case unique and challenging. Many people need help even understanding the election of proceedings form that is included with the notice of seizure.

Please make use of our customs currency seizure legal guide, but remember to also take advantage of our free currency seizure consultation by contacting us today by clicking on the contact button!

A CBP notice of seizure letter contains bad legal advice from CBP; 30 days from date of mailing, not date of the letter.

Don’t Take Legal Advice From CBP

In our piece of responding to a customs money seizure and a petition for return of seized cash, we warn anyone who has had cash seized by Customs against trusting customs that, in a few simple steps, they will get their money back. Do not trust the purported requirements in the notice of seizure like explaining why you “broke the law” (admitting a crime = bad idea) or “unquestionably proving” the source and use of the money, or that bank statements and tax returns are always necessary. Do not take legal advice from CBP.  You need legal advice from a customs lawyer.

Recently, I read a court opinion by a (wise) judge who complained about bad legal advice from CBP. In all the 50 states, only lawyers can give legal advice. If a lawyer happens to work for CBP, they could not give advice to someone who has had cash or property seized because they would have a conflict of interest and could not be expected to give candid advice. This judge, in United States v. Martin, 460 F. Supp. 2d 669, 674 (D. Md. 2006), said:

It is . . . unfortunate that, though sent by non-lawyers to people who could not in any case be their legal clients, [CBP] purport[s] to give legal advice [by stating in the notice of seizure letter “Your legal options are as follows.”[]].

It is illegal to practice law without a license. So when someone at CBP tells you what to do to protect your legal rights, it’s probably illegal. That’s why I bristle when I read CBP’s notice of seizure because it is often inaccurate and contradictory. Worse still are decision letters that ignore or mis-state the petitioner’s right to file a supplemental petition. This puts anyone in jeopardy when trying to respond to the complex and contradictory instructions in a notice of seizure.

Another of those bad pieces of legal advice from CBP is that, if you choose to file an administrative petition under 19 CFR 171.2, it must be filed within 30 days of the date of the notice of seizure letter. This is potentially misleading. In fact, 171.2(b)(1) says “Petitions for relief from seizures must be filed within 30 days from the date of mailing of the notice of seizure.

In saying this, the notice of seizure letter presumes that the date on the letter is the date it is being mailed. That is sometimes true. It is also sometimes not true. Certainly, there is probably a rebuttable presumption that the date on the letter is the same date as the date of mailing. Atteberry v. United States, 27 CIT 751; 267 F Supp 2d 1364 (2003). But, the post mark on the letter might bear evidence that the date of mailing is other than on the date of the letter.

The best practice is not to fight about it, and submit a petition within 30 days of the date of the letter or obtain an extension. But if 30 days has already passed and CBP is telling you they will not accept the petition, you should hope you saved the mailing envelope and it is post-marked after the date of the notice of seizure letter.  And that CBP will act reasonably when presented with that information.

I once received a letter from CBP that provided 30 days to respond. It was dated April 6, ‘post-marked’ on April 15 (from a private meter), and received on April 29. 14 days is a long time for a piece of first class mail to be delivered, and so I suspect from April 15 to April 26 it was sitting on someone’s desk, until that person finally put it in the mailbox for pickup.

Did you take bad legal advice from CBP?

If you “missed” an incorrect deadline or have been asked to admit a violation to CBP,  please contact us by clicking the “Call Now” button at the top or right side, or fill out the contact form for a callback.

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 2

Importing counterfeit merchandise into into the United States is not only illegal, but is something that U.S. Customs & Border Protection takes very seriously. Intercepting counterfeits is considered it to be a priority trade enforcement issue. For truly counterfeit imported merchandise, there are few opportunities to get the seizure remitted (to get the merchandise back from customs), and so it is forfeited (becomes property of the government). We discussed this Part I of Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties. But, forfeiture is often just the beginning of the story, because customs can and does penalize people for importing counterfeit merchandise.

When does customs issue a notice of penalty for importing counterfeits?

As matter of policy, customs issues a penalty when 3 criteria are met:

  1. The counterfeit mark is registered with the Patent and Trademark Office
  2. The counterfeit mark recorded with U.S. Customs & Border Protection
  3. The importer has no consent from the trademark holder to import the counterfeits

In all other situations, customs has the authority to issue a penalty, but may or may not, even if the merchandise is seized. It depends on the individual circumstances of the case.

What is a notice of penalty and who is liable?

The notice of penalty is sent from the Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture’s Office of U.S. Custom & Border Protection through the U.S. mail, usually certified. The notice of penalty is typically a 1 to 2 page document, that states what law or laws or regulations were allegedly violated, and based on the violation, it demands payment of a certain dollar amount.

The importer and anyone who causes, directs, or assists the importation (financially or otherwise) is liable to get the notice of penalty.

How is the penalty amount determined?

The penalty dollar amount is usually based on the maximum amount that customs can levy under the law for counterfeit violations; they are are not based on the price actually paid for the goods, but on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (“MSRP”) of the goods if they were genuine:

  • 1st Offense: the penalty is equal to up to the MSRP of genuine goods
  • 2nd (or more) Offense: the penalty is equal to twice the MSRP of genuine goods

For example, if you are importing counterfeit jeans that cost $5 each, but which have a MSRP for genuine jeans of  $95, customs customs uses the $95 price in its calculation. In this example, if 100 pairs of jeans were imported, the penalty for a 1st offense is up to $9,500 (not $500). For a 2nd offense, the penalty is up to $19,000 (not $500 or $1,00).

Does customs ever reduce a penalty?

You can pay the penalty or, as we recommend, file a petition for mitigation to ask for a reduction in the penalty. Once the notice of penalty is sent, the recipient has either 30 days to pay the penalty or file a detailed petition arguing the legal bases for further mitigation (reduction) or cancellation of the penalty. We recommended preparing and filing a petition, with the assistance of legal counsel, which argues persuasively for the substantial mitigation, or when the facts and law warrant it, cancellation of the penalty in full. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely (some history of our success is HERE).

A failure to pay the penalty, or the mitigated penalty, will result in the referral of the matter for collection through the U.S. attorney. Customs may sue the importer or the person providing assistance in federal court and get a judgment against them. This allows the government to lien property, garnish assets and bank accounts, and seize property to satisfy the judgment.

Obviously, the best course of action is to file a petition, get a reduced penalty, and pay it.

Is there a way to reduce the penalty from customs?

Keep Calm Petition MemeYes, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs, it is possible for a penalty reduction of anywhere from 10% to 30% for a first or second offense. There would have to mitigating and no aggravating factors to achieve that result.

A standard disposition with aggravating factors, or for a third offense, may still garner a reduction of 50% to 80%, if a properly argued petition with factual and legal support is presented to customs.

It is possible, and our law firm has been able to obtain complete cancellation of the penalty even in cases where there are still grounds for a technical violation of the law (some history of our success is HERE). Of course, results will vary from case to case, and no result could be guaranteed. Customs has maintains a list of mitigating factors and aggravating factors that it looks for, and which should part of the argument and analysis of any petition that is filed for them; without a careful and thoughtful analysis of those factors that customs looks for, you may end up pay more than necessary.

If you have had your merchandise seized or have received a notice of penalty from customs, call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer about the possibility of getting your penalty reduced, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist petitions and in penalty cases by customs nationwide.

Counterfeit DVD Seizure by Philly Customs

Customs recently seized some counterfeit merchandise being imported through the port of Philadelphia. Yesterday, we began the first part of our series on what happens when a person or business imports counterfeit merchandise into the United States (please read the article, but I’ll give you a hint: it’s not good). As this customs news release points out, the reasons why customs seizes counterfeit merchandise is often more than just to protect the U.S. trademark holder, but because counterfeit products are often of lower quality and could cause serious harm to the consumers who use them. Read the article below with my own notes written in bold for a play-by-play of how the process of this seizure of counterfeit merchandise plays out.

PHILADELPHIA – The unofficial start to summer arrives in about two weeks, and as is customary, people are feverishly working on sculpting and toning their summer physique. Unfortunately, disreputable organizations know this too, and they prey on that motivation to sell under priced and potentially dangerous counterfeit exercise equipment and technology.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Philadelphia recently seized 36 boxes of counterfeit BeachBody Focus T25 DVDs, and 12 boxes of counterfeit BeachBody P90X3 DVDs, worth an estimated $5,800 MSRP. [NOTE: As we will see in Part 2 of our series on counterfeit trademark customs seizures, MSRP is important when it comes to calculating the penalty the customs will issue to the importer].

The counterfeit DVDs arrived from Hong Kong in two separate shipments and were destined for two addresses in Philadelphia. CBP officers examined the shipments and detained them April 1 to determine their authenticity with the trademark holder, BeachBody. [NOTE: Customs contacts the trademark holder prior to formally detaining the merchandise to determine if the product is truly a counterfeit.]
Customs Counterfeit DVD SeizurePhiladelphia CBP seized two parcels of BeachBody exercise DVS April 25, 2014.CBP simultaneously worked with the importer and broker to obtain specific authorization from the trademark holder permitting it to import BeachBody products. Neither was able to provide an authorization letter from BeachBody. [NOTE: If the importer has the consent of the trademark holder to import counterfeit merchandise, or if it can obtain permission from the trademark holder prior to forfeiture, it’s possible to get the counterfeits released from seizure].

BeachBody confirmed that the products were counterfeit. CBP seized both shipments April 25 for a violation of 19 USC 1526, Merchandise Bearing and American Trademark. [NOTE: The importer will receive a notice of seizure by mail, with the opportunity to respond by, among other things, filing a petition for remission].

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection urges consumers to be especially vigilant against purchasing suspected counterfeit technology products that may have a hidden, embedded virus that can steal your personal information, wipe your hard drive clean, or destroy your electronic devices,” said Susan Stranieri, CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “If the price seems too good to be true, it likely is a counterfeit or pirated item, and is a potentially dangerous product.”

The counterfeit DVDs will be destroyed.

Protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a CBP priority trade issue.

CBP protects businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive IPR enforcement program. CBP targets and seizes imports of counterfeit and pirated goods, and enforces exclusion orders on patent-infringing and other IPR violative goods.

The People’s Republic of China, where these DVDs were manufactured, remains the primary source economy for counterfeit and pirated goods seized by CBP and its primary IPR partner, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In Fiscal Year 2013, 68 percent of all IPR seizures were for goods manufactured in China. The MSRP of those counterfeit goods was valued at approximately $1.1 billion.

In addition to China, CBP and ICE seized counterfeit merchandise from 73 additional economies during FY 2013, including Hong Kong, India, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

To view counterfeit seizure statistics from 2013, visit CBP’s 2013 IPR enforcement results and CBP’s IPR enforcement for more information on this priority trade enforcement issue.

Inspecting international parcels for dangerous and illicit products remains a CBP enforcement priority.

CBP routinely conducts random inspections operations on passengers and air cargo searching for narcotics, currency, weapons and other prohibited or illicit products.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations, 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 petitions for customs seizures nationwide.

Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1

Often, people and businesses can knowingly or unknowingly import counterfeit trademark merchandise into the United States. The majority of these types of importations we encounter for clients are Internet purchases from China, such as purses, videos/DVDs, guitars, clothing,  electronics and accessories, but they can really be any type of product and from any country. Sometimes people know the merchandise is counterfeit but other times they do not have any suspicion, or in some circumstances truly know that what they are importing is not counterfeit. Even if ignorant about the merchandise being counterfeit, if it really is counterfeit then the property is still subject to seizure and forfeiture by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

What is a counterfeit or trademark violation?

Counterfeit merchandise is merchandise that “bears a trade-mark owned by [someone in] the United States, and registered in the . . . [Patent and Trademark Office].” The counterfeit mark can be on the “merchandise, or the label, sign, print, package, wrapper, or receptacle” itself. 19 USC 1526(a). A counterfeit mark is a spurious trademark that is identical to, or substantially indistinguishable from, a registered trademark. 19 CFR 133.21(a). If you do not have permission of the trademark owner to import the merchandise, it’s illegal to import it.

Because the counterfeit merchandise is illegal, it is subject to seizure and forfeiture by U.S. Customs & Border Protection under most circumstances (usually it must also be recorded with CBP per 19 CFR 133.21(b)). 19 USC 1526(b) and (e). This means that customs can take the suspected counterfeit merchandise and destroy it, or if they can obliterate the counterfeit marks and get the consent of the trademark owner, then customs can give it to charity, give it to a government agency for its own use, or sell it at public auction.

Is it possible to get the seized merchandise released?

Before customs can destroy the counterfeit/trademark violations, give it away, or sell it, they must first give the importer a chance to respond. Since October 2015, at the time of detention or even after seizure, the importer has a right to request samples of seized merchandise from CBP. After merchandise is seized, Customs through its Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures (FP&F) office, will send a “notice of seizure” of the counterfeit merchandise to the importer of record. The importer then has several options, among those are the ability to file a petition for remission of forfeiture with FP&F. In this petition, the importer has opportunity to demonstrate that there are no counterfeit/trademark violations involved with the import of the merchandise.

Alternatively, the importer could argue in the petition for remission to customs that some exception to seizure and forfeiture applies. If the importer can prove that the goods are not counterfeit, then the seizure would be remitted and the merchandise released to the custody of the importer. A similar result is possible in certain other circumstances, like if they are permitted genuine, gray market goods, or are for personal use and accompanying a traveler entering the U.S., or if the trademark owner consents to the importation and the counterfeit marks are destroyed.

My merchandise was seized and forfeited as counterfeit. Am I in any other trouble?

If you have merchandise seized by customs and either lose your opportunity to get the merchandise back, abandon the merchandise, or ignore the notice of seizure, it may not be the end of trouble for the importer. In general, customs has the authority to fine or penalize anyone who violates the laws enforced by customs. This means that, weeks or months after the property is seized and forfeited, you may get notice of penalty in the mail from customs that demands payment of thousands of dollars in penalties! It could also mean you get a letter from the trademark holder threatening you with further legal action.

In Part 2 of this series, we discuss when and how customs can assess a monetary penalty after the counterfeit property is seized and forfeited.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations, 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 petitions for customs seizures nationwide.

International Parcel Seizures by Philly CBP

I am sharing this story with readers of my customs law blog as it dovetails well with guidance recently provided to customs about customs liability for internet purchases. Although the seizures in questions below are certainly more of an intentional variety, but are nevertheless instructive because the parcel inspection and seizure process by customs is the same whether the goods are prohibited, restricted, or if there are mistakes made in the import process. In other words, importing steroids or illict street drugs is dramatically different from importing something that you are unaware is not properly marked with country of origin, or for which the shipper provided a incorrect value on the commercial invoice used during the customs declaration process.

On to the story from customs:

PHILADELPHIA – One of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s lesser known enforcement priorities is examining incoming international parcels to hunt for a wide variety of prohibited and illicit products, such as weapons, narcotics, currency, insects and food. Hunting was good this past week.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the international express courier facility near Philadelphia International Airport recorded six khat seizures totaling about 150 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnailpounds, 140 tablets that contained codeine, and 16 vials of steroids.

The parcels were destined to Everett, Mass., Riverwoods, Skokie and West Dundee in Illinois, Minneapolis and Rochester in Minnesota, and Cromwell, Conn.

“We know that U.S. consumers will attempt to purchase products they know to be illicit or illegal from overseas sources through the internet. Our best advice to them is caveat emptor, buyer beware,” said Tarance Drafts, acting CBP Port Director for the Port of Philadelphia. “Inspecting international parcels for dangerous and illicit products remains a Customs and Border Protection enforcement priority. There’s a great chance we’ll get our hands on your purchase before you do.”

The seizures started February 27 when CBP officers intercepted a parcel manifested as “Adidas junior bags” destined for Cromwell, Conn. Officers x-rayed the parcel and detected an anomaly that proved to be 24 pounds, 4 ounces of khat.

CBP officers then made two khat seizures Wednesday, one weighed 22 pounds, 3 ounces and was in a parcel manifested as “document procedures” destined for Skokie, Ill. The second parcel, manifested as “reports,” contained 15 pounds, 14 ounces of khat destined for West Dundee, Ill.

CBP officers also seized the codeine tablets Wednesday in a parcel manifested as “samples” destined for Rochester, Minn. The tablets were a product identified as Solpadeine, which is an over the counter product in Europe, but the codeine makes it a Schedule III drug in the U.S.

Thursday seemed like Groundhog Day, as CBP officers made two additional khat seizures. The first, 23 pounds, 9 ounces, was in a parcel manifested as “mobile phone accessories” and destined for Minneapolis. The second, 16 pounds, 12 ounces, was in a parcel manifested as “project development group report” and destined for Skokie, Ill.

The final parcel Thursday contained 10 vials of 10 ml each of Decatest 350 and six vials of 10 ml each of Megabol 275. The parcel was manifested as “Non Documents Amino Methyl Propanal” and destined for Everett, Mass.

In the largest seizure this week, CBP officers seized 46 pounds, 15 ounces of khat today that arrived in a parcel manifested as “Decorative Artistic Handicrafts” and destined for Riverwoods, Ill.

The 150 combined pounds of khat has a street value of about $45,000.

Khat is a green, leafy plant typically grown in the Arabian Peninsula and chewed for its stimulant effect.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies khat as a schedule 1 narcotic – the most restrictive category used by the DEA – when the leaves are freshly picked. Its principal components, cathine and cathinone, are considered controlled substances in the United States. Please see the DEA Khat Fact Sheet.

The World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse in 1980. It is chewed for its stimulant effect and retains its potency for up to 48 hours after being harvested.

CBP routinely conducts random inspections operations on passengers and air cargo searching for narcotics, currency, weapons and other prohibited or illicit products as part of its border security mission.

The individuals to who these seized shipments were destined will receive a notice of seizure from customs explaining the reasons for the seizure; they will then be asked to respond to the notice of seizure by affirmatively abandoning the property, petition for its return, and a few other choices. No matter how the notice of seizure is responded to, it’s possible that in addition to criminal charges, those connected with the importation of these items will also be facing a civil penalty for the unlawful importation.

If you have had merchandise or money seized by customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. Once your merchandise is seized, Customs may issue a penalty for the violation of law itself. If you have received a notice of penalty from U.S. Customs call our office immediately to discuss the possibility of filing a petition to reduce the penalty amount. We are able to assist petitions and in seizures by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, New York, and Los Angeles.