Tag: reporting requirement

CBP-Detroit Currency Seizures Exceed $5 million for 2013

Customs in Detroit, my “home” port, reports that enforcement of currency reporting violations are up 24% in terms of value of currency seized over last year.

During the first three quarters of fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1, 2012, more than $5,199,000 in currency has been seized at ports of entry within the Detroit Field Office. This represents an increase of 24% compared to this time last fiscal year. Recent cases, such as the $73,000 seized from a pair of Canadian women that was hidden in their under garments, with one of the women being arrested for bulk cash smuggling, highlight the need to inform the public so that they can avoid having their currency seized.

Great Lakes Customs Law is involved in 17 of those cases, involving around $250,393 total seized currency since October 1, 2012. This figures accounts for roughly 5% of the value of all the cases of currency seizures in the port of Detroit so far for fiscal year 2013.

If you have had currency seized and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information I make available on this website or call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with currency seizures around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

$19,000 money seizures by Customs in Philadelphia

It’s nice to see news releases about things other than currency seizures that occur at the U.S.-Mexican border involving bulk cash smuggling. This particular one is from Philadelphia, and the original story is available here. Before we get to the meat of the story, let me point out a few things:

moneystack

First of all, note that “surrendering” is an interest choice of words; if not just poor word choice by the author, it suggests that money was turned over voluntarily rather than seized, perhaps in recognition of some wrongdoing. I have never come across anyone who just surrenders their money to customs and then is instructed to file a petition. I have had Customs allege client’s had “abandoned” the money that was seized, but why the curious choice of words in either case I do not know.

Second, the story mentions that the Indian man paid a $1,000 civil penalty. This means that the man must have been travelling with sufficient documentation to prove legitimate source and no connection to criminal activity, and further, that he had a legitimate intended use for the money — necessary elements to responding to a notice of currency seizure. In some circumstances, where the amount transported is less than $25,000 Customs can eliminate the need to file a petition for the money by mitigating the seizure on-site.

The story, with my emphasis in bold:

Philadelphia – A U.S. citizen learned the importance of being truthful on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declarations and to CBP officers after surrendering $19,000 for violating federal currency reporting requirements Sunday at Philadelphia International Airport.

During a secondary inspection, the man, who arrived from Germany, reported possessing no money upon his return to the United States. CBP officers explained the currency reporting requirements to which the man said he understood, then verbally and in writing declared no money. CBP officers then discovered $19,417 in U.S. dollars and 405 Euros. CBP officers returned $417 in U.S. dollars and the 405 Euros as humanitarian relief, advised the man as to the process to petition for the remaining currency, and released him.

[ . . . ]

“Customs 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, having their currency seized, or potential criminal charges,” said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “The easiest way to keep your currency is to truthfully report it.”

CBP officers assessed a $1,000 civil penalty to a second traveler, an Indian man who arrived Saturday from Germany after officers discovered $17,750 in U.S. dollars and 14,330 in Indian Rupees in his possession. The combined currency equated to$18,007 in U.S. dollars.

International travelers who arrive or depart the United States in possession of more than $10,000 or equivalent foreign currency are required to report all currency to CBP officers and complete a Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) form.

Do not decide how to respond to a CAFRA Notice without first consulting an attorney. Any mistake or error in judgment you make can cost you dearly. The Petition process is a legal process. The petition itself is and should always be a legal document, no different than in any other legal proceeding, that contains detailed factual narrative, what led to the seizure, a review of the relevant law, regulations and Custom’s own guidelines concerning the criteria for remission. When the facts allow for it, our 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.

If you have had currency seized and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information I make available on this website or call my office at (734) 855-4999 or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with currency seizures around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.

 

Currency smuggler tries laundering money

Pardon the clever title, but a news release from U.S. Customs & Border Protection tells the tale of a man who tried to smuggle more than $50,000 in a laundry detergent box out of the United States:

CBP officers and Border Patrol agents were conducting a southbound inspection operation at the 


PresidioCurrency Smuggler Laundering Box crossing when [ . . . ] a 2011 GMC Sierra pick-up driven by a male U.S. citizen approached the checkpoint. The driver and vehicle were selected for an intensive exam. During inspection of the vehicle and baggage the officers noticed tampering on an unopened box of detergent. Further inspection of the box revealed currency bundles wrapped in plastic bags hidden within the soap. CBP officers seized the money and vehicle. No arrests were made and the investigation continues.

“CBP officers are working hard to stop the illegal movement of guns, ammunition and unreported currency,” said David Lambrix, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Presidio port director “Travelers who do not follow federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of losing their currency and may potentially face criminal charges.”

As you can see from the last paragraph, it is stories like these that really give Customs a chance to get on their soap box about their mission, money laundering, and the currency reporting requirements.

If you have had your money seized by Customs, please contact our office today and speak to an attorney experienced in customs law and currency seizures by calling (734) 855-4999, or e-mail us through our contact page.

 

San Juan CBP Seizes $43,000 in Unreported Money

CBP reports on recent current seizures in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, in part stating:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized more than $43,500 in unreported currency at the Luis Munoz Marin Airport last Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in two separate incidents.

While conducting outbound operations on a JetBlue flight destined to the Dominican Republic, a CBP K9 alerted to a passenger, who was then interviewed by CBP officers. During the interview, the passenger stated he was transporting $5,000. During his cbp_tapecarry-on inspection various bundles of currency were found hidden in different locations. A total of $21,378 in currency was found hidden, including inside his socks. The currency was seized.

Departing on the same flight, a different passenger was informed about the currency reporting procedures in his native Spanish language, and he stated that he was transporting $2,000. Examination of the passenger’s carry-on bag revealed additional bundles of U.S. currency, which were concealed inside his clothing. The passenger also failed to report around $9,000 concealed inside clothing on his checked luggage. The total amount of U.S. currency seized was $22,160.

(Emphasis added).

This is interesting because it demonstrates that the currency reporting law applies equally to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Moreover, it should be noted that the fact the the people in these cases hid the money inside articles of clothing will also give rise to additional grounds for seizure, beyond mere failure to file a report, of bulk cash smuggling by virtue of concealing it.
If you have had currency seized, please read our article about responding to a currency seizure to better inform yourself of the process. You should contact our office in order to discussion your legal matter further, the prospect of getting your money returned, potential penalties, and the types of evidence needed in order to get your money back. We can be reached at (734) 855-4999 or by the methods shown on our contact page, and are able to help get your money back no matter your location.

 

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 currency seizures at the ports

As should be expected because of the shared border with Mexico, Laredo news has reports of two other 

Money black hole

significantly large currency seizures; one from another Chicagoan who was found to be transporting $214,925 in unreported currency in her vehicle and, more interestingly, and a 21 year old  Washingtonian who was transporting $115,594 in currency hidden in seven bundles underneath her clothing.

Both seizures occurred the same day and at the same location. As before, the Laredo news does a decent job of getting the law on this topic right, which I have explained before here by noting that 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 CBP it is a serious matter – the law is complex, and any mistake can cost you dearly. Please give us a call and we will provide you with a free telephone consultation. To further inform yourself, you can also read the various articles we have written on this and related topics.

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?

Structuring currency imports and exports

The law concerning reporting transportation of more than $10,000 in currency and/or monetary instruments coming into or out of the United States is clear; any amount more than $10,000 must be reported. So what about two or more of transactions of $10,000 or less?

It is illegal to structure an importation or exportation in order to avoid filing the required report under 31 USC § 5324(c)(3). For example, if a person wanted to transport $25,000 from the U.S. to Brazil, it is illegal to divide the money into smaller sums and export those smaller sums on the same or different occasions to avoid filing a report. It does not matter if the money is divided and given to a  person on the same flight (or same car, bus, boat, etc.), or if it’s done days, weeks, months, or years apart if done to avoid having to file a report — structuring the transaction to avoid filing the report is illegal and carries serious civil and/or criminal consequences. It does not matter if you have other reasons for structuring the transaction, so long as one of those reasons to is to avoid having to file a report your structuring of the transaction is illegal.

On the other hand, dividing the money for any reason other than evading the reporting requirement is legal. However, my typical cautionary disclaimer applies: you still have to prove it and convince Customs that your intent was not to avoid filing a report, and hope that your evidence is strong enough to get your money back (remember, Customs will have seized it pursuant to 31 USC § 5317).

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?

Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.

Many posts in this series have dealt with how and why Customs will seize currency and monetary instruments crossing the border for a violation of 31 USC 5316, which is a failure to report. Customs is also empowered to seize cash or its equivalent smuggled into or out of the United States under 31 USC 5332(c) in addition to seizure for failure to file a report.

At its core, the law against bulk cash smuggling prohibits (1) the concealment of currency or monetary instruments, with (2) an intention to evade the reporting requirement, during the (3) knowing transport, transfer, or attempted transport or transfer, of the currency or monetary instruments out of or into the U.S. 31 USC 5332(a)(1).

Concealment can be done on your person, including  in clothing, a conveyance (e.g., a vehicle), in luggage, in a backpack, with or in merchandise, or any other container, whether it is worn or carried by the person transporting, transferring, or attempting to transport or transfer the currency or monetary instruments. 31 USC 5332(a)(2).

This law allows Customs to seize and forfeit through a civil proceeding “[a]ny property” including the container, conveyance, luggage or clothing, “involved in a violation . . . or a conspiracy to commit such violation, and any property traceable to such violation or conspiracy[.]” 31 USC 5332(c). This means that not only will Customs seizue the currency or monetary instruments, but in some cases also the luggage, backpack, merchandise, or conveyance in which it was concealed. The law also provides for penalties for a criminal conviction of not more than 5 years, among other sanctions. 31 USC 5332(b).

Each of the 3 elements above have a legal definition too detailed for an article this short, but suffice it to say that the terms “knowing” and “intentional” 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.

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?