Tag: structuring

U.S. Customs money seizure in Maine

The Bangor Daily News out of Maine reports on some noteworthy monetary instruments seizures in 2012 by U.S. Customs, including this one:

In one incident the agency highlighted, two Houlton Border Patrol agents seized $89,808 in U.S. currency, $10,440 in Western Union traveler’s checks and $200 in Canadian currency from two men from Canada.

The money was apparently was connected with:

. . . a telephone fraud scheme that preyed on the elderly. The scam involved the subjects advising the elderly of a grandchild or other relative desperately in need of money, and instructing them to wire funds. The victims were subsequently bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. US Canada Border Marker

[  . . . ] The $100,448 initially seized by Border Patrol agents was returned to 18 of the victims.

No mention of the exact legal basis under which the money was seized, or exactly how this fraud scheme became unraveled at the border. I suspect somebody was trying to smuggling the money of the country to evade detection, and taxes, when CBP made the discovery and began putting the puzzle pieces back together.

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 an inexperienced lawyer. You worked hard for your money, so be sure to protect it. If you have questions, please give us a call.

To further 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.

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?

Penalties for monetary reporting violations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions about a customs cash seizure?

If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website like our trusted customs money seizure legal guide (or watch the videos) and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.