U.S. Customs Seizes $69,000 in Cash at Preclearance Station from Traveler

Did you know U.S. Customs & Border Protection has preclearance stations in numerous foreign countries (link)? Did you know that if you fail to report currency at these preclearance stations it will be seized from you just as though you were going through U.S. Customs on U.S. soil? It’s apparently true, and here’s the story of a lady who had almost $70,000 seized for failure to report currency in excess of $10,000 while leaving the Bahamas destined for Fort Meyers, Florida.

NASSAU, Bahamas—U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nassau Preclearance facility discovered $69,739 in undeclared U.S. currency inside a traveler’s carry-on and checked luggage. The Royal Bahamas Police Force took custody of the traveler and the currency.Keep Calm and Declare Monetary Instruments Exceeding $10,000 USD

On Nov. 24, CBP officers encountered a 51-year-old female U.S. citizen traveling to Fort Myers, Florida. The subject was referred for a secondary baggage exam after Nassau Airport Authority Security alerted to a large sum of money inside a piece of checked luggage. During the baggage exam, CBP officers discovered several envelopes addressed to multiple people containing U.S. currency. The subject only reported $900 on her declaration and when questioned reaffirmed to CBP officers that she was traveling with less than $10,000. The traveler failed to formally report the money to CBP resulting in the seizure of the currency.

“This seizure is an excellent example of the cooperative working relationship U.S. Customs and Border Protection has with Nassau Airport Authority Security, who notified CBP of an anomaly in a bag,” said Robert Allen Smith, area port director for Nassau Preclearance. “CBP officers provided the traveler with multiple opportunities to accurately report all currency in her possession; however, she failed to comply with the reporting requirements. The easiest way for travelers to hold on to their currency is to truthfully report it all to a CBP officer.”

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the United States. 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.

It’s a somewhat intriguing for this customs lawyer, because 31 USC § 5316 requires that a “person . . . shall file a report . . . when the person . . . knowingly transports, is about to transport, or has transported, monetary instruments of more than $10,000 at one time . . . to a place in the United States from or through a place outside the United States”. The implementing regulation, 31 CFR § 1010.306, states that the report shall be filed “at the time of entry into the United States or at the time of departure . . .  from the United States, unless otherwise specified . . . .” At the time the regulation was drafted I don’t think the preclearance stations were contemplated. Thus, there might be a thin argument that there was no failure to report… but this is just me shooting from the hip. I haven’t done any time researching the issue and it should not be relied on anyone as legal advice.

Our customs law firm handles currency/money seizures made by customs in Detroit and around the country; call (734) 855-4999 to consult with a customs lawyer today (you can read our popular page on Responding to a Customs Money Seizure HERE).If you have had money seized by Detroit CBP/customs call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page (see our case results here). 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 customs currency seizures:

  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. 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