Abady Law Firm, P.C. – Customs and Import/Export Attorney Blog
Learn the Basics of Customs and International Trade Policy and Procedure
Posts Tagged "currency seizure"
Structuring, according to United States Code (USC) laws and regulations, is the attempt by one or more persons to avoid importation/exportation reporting requirements by partitioning a sum of $10,000 or more in currency or other monetary instruments, so that the divided amounts each fall under the reporting threshold. The law is designed primarily to combat criminal enterprises that traffic cash unreported to the IRS.
The official structuring law, as it pertains to entering or leaving the U.S with currency, 31 USC 5324 (c) (3), states the following:
“(c) International Monetary Instrument Transactions.—No person shall, for the purpose of evading the reporting requirements of section 5316—
(1) fail to file a report required by section 5316, 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 under section 5316 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.”
The law says, that you can’t legally divide a sum of $10,000 or more in cash between two or more people in order to make it appear that you each are carrying individual amounts under the reporting requirement. A typical example of structuring involves a family of three traveling together with a sum total of, say, $17,000.
To avoid having to file a report for the $17,000, the family divides the cash amongst them: Dad carries $5,000, Mom carries $4,000, and Son carries $7,000. When they attempt to travel through Customs as a family unit with the cash, though, Customs becomes suspicious. Individually, each family member’s cash amount falls below the reporting requirement, but Customs deems them as a single familial unit under the structuring law. As a result, Customs seizes the entire $17,000.
A second example involves a party of vacationers who has traveled outside the U.S. While vacationing, one of the travelers ends up with $21,000 in gambling winnings from a casino. To circumvent the reporting requirements, perhaps to avoid taxes on the winnings, the travelers split the $21,000 up among them in separate amounts, each under $10,000. As they attempt to pass through Customs, even as individuals, Customs recognizes their affiliation and suspects a structuring violation. Just like in the prior example, each individual’s cash is seized.
Structuring is a federal criminal offense, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine, or both. Even though the law is in place primarily to combat tax evaders and criminal enterprises, there are times when individuals with legally upstanding and legitimate business/personal intentions can inadvertently become ensnared in a structuring violation.
For more information on structuring violations, contact Abady Law Firm at 800.549.5099. Or, contact via email to speak with a U.S. Customs Attorney if your currency has been seized at an airport or border.
Petitions for Remission or Mitigation of Forfeiture (“petition for relief”) are written presentations (sometimes supplemented with an oral presentation) whereby an alleged violator of a customs law or regulation responds to the government’s issuance of a penalty, claim for liquidated damages, or notice of seizure. A petition is the means for the alleged violator to convince Customs that there is a reason to remit or mitigate the penalty, liquidated damages, or seizure. Petitions are usually due 30 days from the date stamp on the notice (not the date in which it is mailed or received). One may ask for an extension if need be. Customs regulations (19 C.F.R. § 171.1) provide the following information when preparing a petition:
The petition for remission or mitigation need not be in any particular form. Customs can require that the petition and any documents submitted in support of the petition be in English or be accompanied by an English translation. The petition must set forth the following:
(1) A description of the property involved (if a seizure);
(2) The date and place of the violation or seizure;
(3) The facts and circumstances relied upon by the petitioner to justify remission or mitigation; and
(4) If a seizure case, proof of a petitionable interest in the seized property.
The alleged violator begins at a disadvantage – it is the accused who has the burden of proving its innocence. Thus, it is best to consult with an attorney about your options immediately, time is of the essence!
For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs attorney at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with a customs lawyer — who has insight into the administrative petition process — about your company’s import situation and to schedule a consultation. To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.
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Have you received a letter from Customs that looks like this http://twitpic.com/9j9rll ?
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the agency responsible for protecting our borders. Accordingly, Customs officials at seaports, airports, and other border crossings all over the U.S. have the authority to examine, detain, and/or seize merchandise entering or exiting the country. More often than not, importers and exporters are surprised and intimidated when they find out that the government has intervened in their business. As a result, it is best to provide my readers some basic knowledge in an effort to appease any distress from Customs intervention.
Customs officials have a laundry list of “red flags” when targeting merchandise; they are looking for drugs, non-compliance with the Food and Drug Administration, counterfeit goods, and currency among many others. When Customs decides to detain a particular shipment the merchandise is transferred to a Centralized Examination Station where officials sort through and intensely examine the contents of the shipment. During the detention Customs must provide an explanation for the detention (see previous post for more detail). It is important to note that Customs explanation for the detention may have been provided under the advisement of another federal agency – as Customs is the “enforcer” for all other federal agencies relating to the import/export of products. Here is an example: Customs detained a shipment of T-shirts from Canada due to the failure to provide documentation that the importer has the authority to utilize a logo that is a registered trademark.
If Customs find a violation, they will seize it and transfer it from the Centralized Examination Station to an official warehouse. Throughout this process the importer is charged storage fees which must be paid if Customs agrees to release the goods. Seizures are handles by a department in Customs known as Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures (FP&F). An FP&F paralegal reviews the case and issues a seizure notice to the alleged violator. The seizure notice will give information regarding the identity of the merchandise, the location of the seizure, and citations to legal authorities. Generally, the alleged violator is given options 1) abandon the goods; 2) file a petition with customs within 30 days of the issuance date on seizure notice; 3) file an offer in compromise (this option is beneficial in specific circumstances – best to speak with an attorney first to confirm whether an offer is the right strategy); or 4) take the matter directly to court for litigation (you need to fill out the seized asset claim form and post a cost bond equal to 10% of the value of the seized merchandise, or $5,000, whichever is lower).
At this time it is highly recommended to contact a Customs attorney regarding your best options and strategy moving forward. If an attorney is hired, he/she would notify Customs that the alleged violator is being represented by counsel. Thereafter, generally, the attorney would make what is called a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA). This formal request is sent in order to gain access to records that customs has regarding the alleged violation.
If the petition option is chosen, the alleged violator is given an opportunity to explain to customs why the goods should be released. It is important to hire an attorney who knows the policies, procedures, and practices that customs has in place in order to convince customs to release your goods. Thereafter, customs will render a decision on the case and either grant or deny the petition. If denied, the alleged violator is given an opportunity to file a supplemental petition to which must state additional information not before provided to customs. Alternatively, the alleged violator can choose to file an offer in compromise whereby one can make an attempt to negotiate with customs by offering a monetary sum to settle the matter and release the goods.
As discussed, there are various options offered to the alleged violator under the law. It is best to consult with an attorney experienced in these matters to explain these options as they relate to a particular set of facts. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!
For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs attorney at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with a customs lawyer — who has insight into the Notice of Seizure — about your company’s import situation and to schedule a consultation. To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.
Can U.S. Customs seize your money at the airport?
Yes, if one failed to properly report all cash and cash equivalents transported into or out of the country. See Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act (31 U.S.C. 5311, et seq.)
When do I have to declare my money to Customs?
Most people are uninformed of the reporting requirement however, “If you transport, attempt to transport, or cause to be transported (including by mail or other means) currency or other monetary instruments in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000 or its foreign equivalent) at one time from the United States to any foreign country, or into the United States from any foreign country, you must file a report with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” Currency Reporting As soon as you present yourself to Customs inform them that you are carrying over $10,000.00 in monetary instruments.
Please be aware, if persons/family members traveling together have $10,000 or more, they cannot divide the currency between each other to avoid declaring the currency.
For example, if one person is carrying $5,000 and the other has $6,000, they have a total of $11, 000 in their possession and must report it. If a person or family fails to declare their monetary instruments in amounts of over $10,000, their monetary instrument(s) may be subject to forfeiture and could result to civil and criminal penalties.
What is the definition of “Monetary Instruments?”
Monetary Instruments— (1) Coin or currency of the United States or of any other country, (2) traveler’s checks in any form, (3) negotiable instruments (including checks, promissory notes, and money orders) in bearer form, endorsed without restriction, made out to a fictitious payee, or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery, (4) incomplete instruments (including checks, promissory notes, and money orders) that are signed but on which the name of the payee has been omitted, and (5) securities or stock in bearer form or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery. Monetary instruments do not include (i) checks or money orders made payable to the order of a named person which have not been endorsed or which bear restrictive endorsements, (ii) warehouse receipts, or (iii) bills of lading
What is the required form one has to fill out prior to transporting more than $10,000?
Does it cost anything to declare one’s money over $10,000 to Customs?
What happens if you do not declare your money over $10,000?
If Customs stops you, the money will most likely be taken (“seized”) from you. If this happens ensure that you get a receipt to account for all the money. Thereafter, one will receive a CAFRA seizure notice in the mail within sixty (60) days. It is highly recommended to seek advice from an attorney experienced in these matters in order to fully explain your legal options.
What is the reason for the government seizing the money under these circumstances?
The government believes that the money being transported may be involved in drug trafficking, terrorist activity, evasions of tax laws for failing to report it.
You may contact this firm at 212-202-0542 for legal assistance in advocating for the return of your money. We have helped persons from around the world get their money returned at airports and ports of entry throughout the United States. We also have a website dedicated to money seizures located here.