U.S. Customs Border Protection Seizes $69,000.00 From Carry On Luggage at the Airport

Last week our asset forfeiture law firm received a call from a young businessman traveling into the United States from Brazil who simply forgot that he was carrying his working capital in his carry on luggage which was seized after the Agents noticed a “suspicious” e-cigarette device. He was interrogated for close to 4 hours by Customs and told he was a criminal. The Agents went through his personal smartphone without a warrant and cherry-picked silly photos of marijuana and accused him of being a major drug dealer while not a bit of contraband was in his belongings. The Agents did not charge him but made it clear that he could be in violation of the bulk cash smuggling law Title 31 U.S.C. 5332(a) and (b) which terrified this young father of 3 children and his young wife.

Ultimately, he was given the document entitled “SEIZED MONETARY INSTRUMENTS PETITION INFORMATION” wherein he was informed that his monetary instruments (money) have been seized under Title 31 United States Code (USC) Section 5317 for violation of 31 U.S.C. 5316. In this particular case, our client was informed that Fines Penalties and Forfeitures would be handling the case and not to call FP&F for at least 60 days and when he receives the Notice of Seizure and Forfeiture, there will be a paralegal specialist assigned to his case and he will need to provide information regarding the source of the money, tax returns, inheritance documents, where he has lived, cell phone numbers and explanations of intended use of the money and why it was not reported. The above-described code sections directly refer to a failure to file a Form 8300 that we hear about most commonly when depositing cash at banks when you are going on a foreign trip. However, failure to file the form, on its own, is not enough to simply allow the Government to forfeiture and take your money. In United States v. Seher, 686 F.Supp. 2d 1323, the court stated, “significantly, unlike 31 U.S.C. § 5324, a violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5331 does not trigger criminal forfeiture.” But there is a fine line when if you are accused of violating 31 USC § 5331 if you are accused of crossing the line that 31 USC §5313, 5316 and 5324(b) which can lead to choosing between fighting for the return of your money and potential criminal charges. Wherever you are in the United States, we can advise you about Federal Forfeiture Law.

San Diego Defenders recommends contacting a law firm that understands both criminal law and forfeiture before providing the information like our client was asked for in this example. These “form questions” may be in violation of your Fifth Amendment Right to Remain Silent. Call our office at (619) 258-8888 when you seek protection from the long arm of the law - criminal law - that may come looking for you. Daniel Smith, the supervising attorney and founder of San Diego Defenders will personally speak with you about protecting your future and your Constitutional rights. Whether you are seeking protection from being criminally prosecuted or the Government has seized your hard earned money or inheritance, we can help. Call us at (619) 258-8888 sooner rather than later for protection before the Government comes knocking on your door!