Tag: seizure

Counterfeit Goods Seized by CBP Detroit

CBP Seizure for Online Counterfeit Purchases FAQ

CBP will detain, seize, and forfeit counterfeit goods that were purchased online and shipped to the United States. CBP sometimes will also issue a penalty for counterfeit seizures. We get way too many calls on this topic, and so we are publishing some frequently asked questions on the topic in the hope that it is useful. The law that prohibits importing counterfeit goods into the United States is 19 USC 1526. You can read details about the law here: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1

1. Customs detained or seized my internet purchase. I think the goods are fake (not genuine, counterfeit, etc). What happens next?

If Customs seizes your items, you should receive a notice of seizure in the mail. The notice of seizure will explain what your options are. You will have 30 days to file a petition or 35 days to make an offer in compromise.

2. Am I going to jail?

Although the importation of counterfeits is a crime, criminal prosecution for innocent internet purchases is very unlikely. The more products you import, the greater the value, the greater intent you have to sell or redistribute the goods (or the greater intent CBP can infer from your purchase and/or past activity), the more likely it would be that you would be criminally prosecuted. In other words, it would be extremely rare for you to get criminally charged if you are not trafficking in counterfeit goods.

3. Am I going to get a penalty?

Possibly. CBP guideline’s state that all counterfeit imports should be penalized, but in fact, that is not what happens. It can be hard to predict who will receive a penalty. Generally, the chance for a penalty increases for:

  • Commercial purchases
  • High quantity purchases (i.e., CBP could infer from the order that it was meant for re-sale)
  • High value purchases
  • Repeat violations

The above are just a few circumstances where we have seen counterfeit penalties issued, but there are cases where penalties are issued for reasons other than the above. Sometimes it can just come down to the decision of a Customs official to refer the matter for a penalty, and other times sometimes some ports are more aggressive than others about issuing penalties (ahem, Port of Mobile).

4. How will I know if I will get a penalty?

You will not know until you get it. A penalty comes in the mail, usually first class mail (i.e., not certified or registered mail), so it’s arrival is unassuming.

5. What should I do if I get a penalty?

If you get a penalty, you should file a petition for mitigation of penalty. You generally have 60 days from the date of the penalty notice to file the petition, asking that the amount be reduced. You should have a lawyer do this.

6. How long does it take for CBP to issue a penalty for counterfeits?

It could be weeks, months, or even years after the seizure before you receive a penalty. A penalty will come in the mail, typically only first class mail (not certified). CBP has 5 years to issue a penalty. However, the more time that passes after the 6 month anniversary of receipt of the notice of seizure, your the likelihood of receiving a penalty goes down.

7. Should I respond to the notice of seizure? Should I abandon the property?

If the goods are truly counterfeit, you will not get them back without consent of the trademark holder, or some miracle. There are probably pros and cons to either choosing to abandon the property (affirmning that you are interested in the goods and that you want them to be forfeited) and just ignoring the letter. Whatever you choose, it’s wise to save the letter.

8. I think my goods are genuine. What should I do?

If you believe your goods are genuine, you should probably request samples, have the product or samples analyzed, and either file a petition or a claim. You should consult with a lawyer.

9. I don’t want the goods, but I also want to take steps to make sure I don’t get a penalty. What should I do?

There is no easy answer to this question. The violation has already happened, and there may be little you can do to avoid a penalty now. You may think that by not responding at all that the chance of receiving a penalty will decrease. You may think that by responding and forcefully denying you had any intention to import counterfeit goods the chance of receiving a penalty will decrease.

To both hypotheticals above, the answer is: maybe.

There are pros and cons, risks and benefits, to both potential courses of action. But it’s difficult to predict which will help you avoid a penalty, and which will cause the penalty to be issued. Please refer back to #3 and #4, above.

10. I received a threatening letter from the trademark holder. What should I do?

First, understand what they’re asking you to do in the letter. Then, weigh the risk of responding, vs. not responding (see #8 above, as the same considerations apply). By responding, you may be admitting guilt and making a case against you far easier. However, by not responding, you may be losing a valuable opportunity to avoid further actions against you, such as litigation.

You should also know that the law requires CBP to notify the trademark holder that they seized merchandise the bears counterfeit marks on it. These trademark holders will often (as in the case of Apple, Bluetooth, Samsung, Louis Vuitton, etc) have a law firm send out letters whenever their is a seizure, no matter the value, as a means of protecting their brand and scaring you to not import counterfeit goods, and gain intelligence on who is producing them and how they are getting into the United States, so they can try to put a stop to it.

11. Will I get arrested? Are they going to seize my bank account? Is that person knocking at my door right now the police?

Just calm down. As explained in #2 above, most people won’t get arrested. Bank accounts don’t get seized until you’ve got a judgment against you (i.e., after arrest, conviction, and trial). The person knocking at your door probably is not the police (but in case it is, assert your constitutional right to silence!)

12. What’s the worse that can happen?

The worse is not likely, at least for most situations. The worst that could happen would be that the merchandise gets forfeited, get sued by the trademark holder, you get fined by CBP, criminally charged and thrown in jail, your spouse leaves you, and your children pretend you don’t exist. But as explained above, the worse probably will not happen.

13. Should I call you and discuss my case?

Probably not, especially if your purchase is less than $1,000 and you have not received a penalty. You should calm down and read the answers to the above questions. If you are interested in a consultation, we charge for any advice that is beyond the advice that is given here. Reach out to us if you would like a quote to provide you with advice, or filing a petition, or if you receive a penalty.

CBP Seizes Helicopter Drones for FCC label violations

CBP in Detroit, as part of a larger seizure that we blogged about not long ago, has seized 4,600 radio-controlled drone helicopters. But, because they did not have the appropriate FCC labels (certifying compliance of the product with FCC regulations), they have been seized. Here’s the story from CBP, along with an embedded tweet with more pics of the merchandise from Director of Field Operations for Detroit.

DETROIT— U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has effectively grounded more than 4,600 remote controlled helicopter drones at the Fort Street Cargo Facility.

The 4,619 drones, valued at approximately $69,000, were seized after officers and import specialists discovered the merchandise did not meet Federal Communications Commission labeling requirements. The shipment was also determined to be undervalued by nearly $62,000, and subject to legislative duties as outlined in Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.

The intended imports, which originated from China, were seized June 1 in conjunction with a previous shipment containing more than $400,000 in counterfeit merchandise. Those items were seized in late May.

“The CBP employees in Detroit are committed to protecting the American consumer and the economy, while facilitating legitimate trade and travel,” said Devin Chamberlain, Port Director. “The products CBP prevents from entering the United States are those that could injure community health, public safety and the American way of life.”

Has CBP seized your imports for failing to meet FCC requirements?

If CBP seized your imports for failing to meet FCC requirements, or get a penalty for import violations, 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.

Counterfeit Goods Seized by CBP Detroit

Detroit CBP Seizes $400k in Counterfeits

CBP Detroit seized counterfeit merchandise at the Fort Street Cargo Facility in the last few days. The headline and the tweet sent out by DFO Perry says that it’s “nearly $400k” worth of goods, but probably that is the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price); so it’s unlikely that is the price actually paid for the merchandise by the importer.

Here’s the tweet:

What can the importer expect? If they they are truly counterfeit, they will not be released/returned to the importer. And, if they are truly counterfeit, they should be nervous about the possibility of receiving a $400,000 penalty from customs. CBP penalties for trademark violations are based on the MSRP value of the goods, not the transaction value (price paid or payable).

Here’s the rest of the story:

DETROIT— U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intercepted nearly $400,000 in counterfeit textiles and electronic merchandise at the Fort Street Cargo Facility.

On May 18, multiple purported Bluetooth products to include headphones, valued at approximately $325,000; smart bands, valued at approximately $59,000; various speakers, valued at more than $4,000; and Star Wars hats, valued at nearly $10,000, were discovered when officers and import specialists selected the shipment for an enhanced inspection.

Closer examination of the intended imports, which originated from China, revealed the branding and overall quality of the articles were not consistent with genuine products. Additionally, the electronic goods were not registered with Bluetooth.

The counterfeit goods were subject to various intellectual property rights violations and ultimately seized.

“The importation of counterfeit merchandise poses a significant risk to the vitality of the U.S. economy, our national security and the health and safety of the American people,” said Devin Chamberlain, Port Director. “Our enforcement efforts at the border protect the integrity of private industry, while maintaining the inventory of safe, quality goods for the end user in the U.S.”

CBP may issue civil fines to violators and, where appropriate, refer cases to other agencies for criminal investigation.

What if I get a penalty from CBP?

If you get a penalty from CBP, you should definitely file a petition for mitigation of the penalty. You could get a substantial reduction in the penalty amount through mitigation offered by the Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Office. We have a lot of experience of getting great results for clients on their CBP penalty cases, including substantial reductions and even some cancellations. You can see 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

Notice of Penalty or Liquidated Damages Inccured by CBP

Failure to Report Arrival or Advance Electronic Cargo Information Penalty

U.S. Customs & Border Protection enforces many laws and regulations that concern arriving at the border, presenting merchandise to Customs, filing advance cargo information, and unloaded merchandise or off-loading passengers without authorization.

For instance, 19 CFR 123.92 requires advance cargo information for commercial shipments from Canada and Mexico be sent to CBP electronically 30 minutes or 1 hour prior to the “carrier’s reaching the first port of arrival in the United States, or such lesser time as authorized . . .” even if the carrier is just transiting through the United States.

Similarly, 19 USC 1433 requires that any vessel, vehicle, and aircraft report their arrival, and present all person and merchandise for inspection to a customs officer.

What happens if fail to report arrival or violate CBP’s entry regulations?

If you fail to report arrival, present false documents or paperwork, violate regulations regarding the entry and arrival of vehicles, or discharge passengers or merchandise without Customs authorization, you are liable to a penalty of $5,000, and possibly seizure of the conveyance and the merchandise stored in it.

If you have a prior offense, the amount can increase to $10,000. In the case of an unreported or improperly entered conveyance, Customs can impose the value of the merchandise (or if they conveyance itself is the merchandise… the value of the conveyance) in addition to the $5,000 or $10,000 standard penalty.

If receive a penalty for these failures under 19 USC 1436, we can file a petition for mitigation and you can expect your mitigated penalty to be reduced. The reduction varies on the type of violation, who committed, and the presence of aggravating or mitigating factors.

CBP at JFK Seizes Cocaine in Beef Patties

We have our first stupid smuggling attempt of 2017. In a story similar to one we blogged about 3 years ago where CBP at JFK Seized Cocaine in Meat, another traveler thought it would be a good idea to hide some cocaine in some beef patties from Jamaica. I again explain: it is basically impossible to import meat into the United States without getting advance permission from either the FDA, USDA, or both.

In other words, the smuggler tried to hide something illegal in something that was illegal. If you’re going to have any chance at success in smuggling, you would need to hide something illegal in something legal.

You should not hide something illegal in something illegal, and moreover, something that a dog is going to naturally gravitate toward, like meat.

Here is the full story:

JAMAICA, N.Y. — A traveler had more than a snack in her suitcase when she arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.  Fortunately, U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were there to stop her in her tracks.

On January 17, CBP officers intercepted passenger Ms. Chantal Alecia Bedward, a citizen of Jamaica, arriving from Kingston, Jamaica.  During her examination, CBP officers discovered what appeared to be a box of Tastee Brand, Jamaican Beef Patties.  CBP officers escorted Ms. Bedward to a private search room where the box of beef patties was opened revealing 12 duct-taped packages.  The packages were probed producing a white powder that tested positive for cocaine.

Ms. Bedward was arrested for the importation of a controlled substance and was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  The approximate gross weight of cocaine seized was 4 lbs.

An image of 11 counterfeit championship rings that were seized by Detroit U.S. Customs & Border Protection at Detroit Metropolitan airport.

Detroit CBP Seizes $680k in Counterfeit Championship Rings

CBP at Detroit Metro Airport seized $680,000 worth of counterfeit championship rings that were being imported into the United States from China. This counterfeit seizure by happened in April, but it is just now making the news.

That’s probably because the story finally made it from FP&F to CBP’s press department, or because the notice of seizure was finally mailed after a final determination by CBP that the rings were actually counterfeit. A valuation of $680,000 means that Customs is putting an MSRP value on each ring of $5,000.

Recall that each time you cause an importation of a counterfeit item into the United States it subject to seizure and you are subject to a penalty, as the importer, for up to the value of the goods if they were real. You can read more about that in our other articles on that topic: Importing Counterfeit Trademarks – Customs Seizures & Penalties; Part 1 and Part 2  (click to read).

The use of a fictitious name by the importer opens the importer up to additional liability beyond merely violation 19 USC 1526(e) (importing counterfeits), by charges involving fraud. Not a smart move. Here’s the story:

DETROIT— In late April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized $680,000 (MSRP) in counterfeit NHL, NFL and MLB championship rings in a shipment that originated on a flight from China.

While conducting operations at a DHL consignment facility, the Cargo Enforcement Team selected and examined a shipment of rings from China, resulting in the discovery of 136 counterfeit championship rings from the National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball. In all, the counterfeit rings displayed the names and logos of several teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints, and New York Jets. The shipment also included rings for the Chicago Black Hawks and the Boston Red Sox.

The company identified as the receiver of the rings used a fictitious name and was found to have previous copyright/trademark violations.

Have you had allegedly counterfeit merchandise seized by CBP in Detroit?

Not only do you have rights to contest the determination that the merchandise was counterfeit (like getting a sample of seized merchandise), but if you’ve been penalized we are very successful in getting penalties reduced or eliminated entirely. Click the contact button on this page to get in touch with us today!

PHL Fake Traveler's Check Seized by CBP in Philadelphia en route to Chicago

CBP Seizes Counterfeit Checks for Chicago

CBP in Philadelphia seized counterfeit traveler’s checks with a face value of $33,000 on May 25th, which were destined for an address in Chicago. The seizure occured at a sorting facility near the Philadelphia International Airport. Here’s part of the story from CBP:

CBP officers inspected the parcel, which arrived from Nigeria and was manifested as documents, and discovered 67 separate $500 MasterCard travelers checks. Upon closer inspection, CBP officers discovered that none of the alleged security features were visible on the checks. CBP officers seized the parcel, which was destined to an address in Chicago.

The story closes by saying that on a typical day CBP seizes more than $350,000 in cash from throughout the country. Here, the negotiable instruments were not part of a failure to declare (although calling them “documents” certain is not a full declaration for customs purposes), but rather were seized because they were counterfeit and also very likely connected to other criminal activity (scamming).

A twist on this story I’ve heard recently is scammers offering to send millions of dollars of cash into the United States, rather than traveler’s checks. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I do not always know how these scam stories end or what the story is behind the scam (that is, why they’re offering to send cash or traveler’s checks, if it’s counterfeit, etc.), but the old say that if something is too good to be true, it probably is, has helped many people avoid being scammed by these counterfeit check/money situations.

Anyone involved in these types of transactions, whether knowingly or unknowingly, opens themselves up to both criminal and civil liability. Don’t get yourself in trouble.

We recently wrote about “millions” of dollars of “hell” counterfeit money that was seized after arriving travelers, not imported through a commercial shipment, as here.

CBP Seizes Hazardous (Lead) Toys in San Juan

We previously explained the risks that come with importing merchandise into the United States; how it can result in seizure, monetary penalties, and some strategies can use to defend itself against those penalties.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of San Juan recently seized hazardous toys in four different shipments which arrived between August and September, 2015, with a combined estimated domestic retail value of over $100K.  The toys were found to contain hazardous substances that could represent a risk for children.

Toys that were seized after CPSC laboratory analysis determined that they contained lead.
Toys were seized in October 2015, after CPSC laboratory analysis determined that they contained lead.

Working closely with U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) compliance investigators, CBP officials detained several shipments of toys from China on 4 separate incidents between the months of August and September of 2015.  All of the toys were seized in October 2015, after CPSC laboratory analysis determined that they contained lead in excess of the limit which may be harmful to the health and safety of children.

Children’s products, including toys, which are designed or intended primarily for use by children 12 years of age or younger, must not contain a concentration of lead greater than 0.009 percent (90 parts per million) in paint or any similar surface coatings.

“Import safety is a priority trade issue for CBP,” stated Edward Ryan, San Juan Assistant Director of Field Operations in the area of Trade.  “Our agency works with CPSC as well as nearly 50 other government agencies to enforce U.S. import regulations and to stop unsafe and illicit goods from entering the country.”

Importing hazardous items into the United States is a very serious matter. First, it is very likely that after seizure the property will be forfeited and destroyed by the U.S. government. Once forfeiture is complete, the person who caused the importation may get a notice of penalty or liquidated damages from U.S. Custom & Border Protection for importations contrary to law.

The importer will have a chance to respond to customs’ notice of penalty with the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures office by filing a petition for mitigation and ask customs to reduce the penalty based on the presence of certain mitigating factors that customs particularly looks for. Great Lakes Customs Law has been very successful in getting these kinds of penalties reduced and, sometimes, even eliminated entirely. If the person fails to pay the penalty, the government can bring a lawsuit in federal district court to recover the penalty in the form of a judgment, after which point the government can lien property, garnish bank accounts, and seize property.

If you have had money or merchandise seized by customs 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.

Florida CBP Seizes Counterfeit Sunglasses

Customs seized counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses fairly recently. According to the story itself, the sunglasses could have been seized not only because they were counterfeits, but also because the import documents falsely identified them as being something else. That’s called smuggling, among other things. This importer is in for a big penalty, equivalent to the MSRP of the counterfeit goods as if they were genuine. Here is an excerpt of the full story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Tampa seized over 860 counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses arriving in a shipment from China on July 13. Had the goods been genuine, the designer handbags [sic] would have an estimated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $123,455.

US Customs seizure of $123,455 in counterfeit sunglasses.
US Customs seized $123,455 in counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses.

CBP’s highly trained officers successfully targeted and intercepted the U.S.-bound air cargo. The description for the freight was also concealed under a different commodity.

Initially, CBP officers suspected the sunglasses to be counterfeit since they did not appear to be of the quality consistent with the products normally manufactured by the trademark holder. CBP import specialists examined samples and determined the items to be counterfeit.

You might be facing penalties from customs for importing counterfeit merchandise. We can help. Typically, 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).If you have had merchandise seized by customs because they allege it is counterfeit and contains trademark violations and/or have a received a notice of penalty for importing alleged counterfeits or for making an importation contrary to law, 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 penalties and seizures around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places. Please read these other articles:

Information on currency and monetary instrument seizure by Customs

CBP took cash over $10,000? Read here to help you along the way.
Money seized by customs? CBP took cash over $10,000? Read here to help you along the way.

We get many calls from people across the country who, either having just crossed a land border or cleared Customs at an airport, have money or its equivalent seized by U.S. Customs and
Border Protection for failure to report amounts over $10,000, or for stating an inaccurate amount being transported. In this series of blog posts, I will answering some of the most frequently asked questions about currency seizures, reporting requirements, and the process we use for getting your seized money back from Customs.

Did you have your money seized by Customs?

This experience with Customs is usually a traumatic one for most people, not only because a big chunk of your savings is suddenly gone, but also because Customs often detains a suspect for hours while separating you from your traveling companions and interrogating each of you about the source and purpose of the money. They will make you feel like the worst of criminals.

“Why does Customs seize the money if I’ve done nothing wrong?”

In most cases, Customs usually seizes money because of a violation of the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act (although certain situations might give rise to allegations of failure to declare or some type of smuggling, such as bulk cash smuggling). Specifically, 31 USC  § 5316 and 5317, a part of the Federal law, as well as Federal Regulations, give Customs the authority to seize your cash, currency, or things like checks, promissory notes, traveler’s checks, money orders, and certain securities and stocks if you fail to report or misreport amounts in excess of $10,000. The law requires that this report be made so they can more easily detect money laundering and other financial crimes.

Why most people have their money seized

People fail to report, or misreport currency and monetary instruments for a variety of reasons. It can be mistrust of government agents (usually foreign born people who grew up under very corrupt governments), lack of knowledge of the presence of money, not knowing exactly how much cash you have, a language barrier, confusion about whether non U.S. currency must be reported, how the law applies to more than one person, or good old-fashioned panic.

If you have had currency seized from Customs do not try to respond yourself but hire our firm, because we know what we are doing and have successfully handled many cases like yours. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit. Please read these other articles:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
  2. Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
  3. Structuring currency imports and exports
  4. Is it $10,000 per person?  Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
  5. Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
  6. Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
  7. Responding to a Customs currency seizure
  8. How do I get my seized money back?
  9. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  10. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  11. Statute of Limitations for Currency Reporting Violations
  12. Filing a Petition for Seized Currency (with Sample and Tips) with CBP
  13. Don’t Talk About Your Customs Currency Seizure Case