U.S. Customs Money Seizure Story; $145,000 Confiscated

Below is a news release concerning a customs currency seizure of more than $145,000 for failure to report and bulk cash smuggling (concealing money in cellophane bundles wrapped inside a shopping bag is predictably ripe for allegations by customs of bulk cash smuggling). 

Based on the fact that the woman was arrested and the the prevalence of drug money seeping across the U.S.-Mexico border, it seems highly likely that something illegal was happening here. However, innocent people who simply failure to report the amount of currency they are transporting get their currency seized and confiscated by customs everyday at airports and land borders. These people can get their money back with the if they follow the right steps to respond to their currency seizure.

Even though this person was arrested, they have the right to try to get the money back by proving legitimate source and legitimate intended use. The CBP news release also correctly states the person can petition to have the seized money returned, but there are other options, too: a claim could be filed which initiate judicial forfeiture of seized currency, and I occasionally there are cases where making an offer in compromise makes sense.

On to the full story:

EL PASO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents working at the El Paso port of entry seized $146,070 Thursday evening. The money was hidden in a shopping bag inside a vehicle that was leaving the U.S. at the Bridge of the Americas international crossing at the El Paso port of entry.

CBP officers and Border Patrol agents were conducting a southbound inspection operation at the BOTA crossing when a 2011 Dodge Durango attempted to leave the U.S. at approximately 11:15 p.m. CBP personnel selected the vehicle for an intensive examination after a preliminary interview with the driver. CBP currency detector canine “Nouska” searched the vehicle and alerted to a bag inside the vehicle. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents found three cellophane wrapped bundles inside the bag. The bundles were opened revealing the U.S. currency. CBP officers seized the currency. CBP officers dicovered [sic] three bundles of currency in a vehicle leaving the U.S. at the El Paso port of entry.

CBP officers took custody of the driver, 40-year-old Jennifer Guadalupe Hernandez, a U.S. citizen residing in El Paso. She was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI special agents in connection with the failed smuggling attempt and booked into the El Paso County jail where she is being held without bond.

“CBP officers and Border Patrol agents are checking southbound traffic everyday trying to stop guns, ammunition and unreported currency from being smuggled out of the country. Their diligence paid off in this enforcement action,” said Hector Mancha, U.S. Customs and Border Protection El Paso port director. “The unreported cash that we seize has an impact on the criminal organizations by making it more difficult for them to further their illicit activities.”

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S. However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP. Failure to report may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest. An individual may petition for the return of currency seized by CBP officers, but the petitioner must prove that the source and intended use of the currency was legitimate.

We handle currency seizure cases that occur at the Detroit airport and land border crossings like the Detroit/Windsor-Tunnel and Ambassador Bridge on a regular basis, and have been very successful in getting our client’s money back from customs.  If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/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 with cash seized by customs nationwide, including Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando. Please read these other articles from our customs law blog:

  1. Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. CustomsKeep Calm and Declare Monetary Instruments Exceeding $10,000 USD
  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. How do I get my seized money back from customs?
  8. Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
  9. How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?
  10. Targeted Enforcement for Customs Money Seizures