Was your cash or money seized at the Airport or at the Border? The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency operates under the Department of Homeland Security. Their primary purpose is to prevent terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States. In order to accomplish this, they monitor all activities for signs of anything that resembles the way that terrorist networks operate.
They secure the border by enforcing U.S. laws and regulations. These include immigration and drug laws, as well as enabling lawful international trade. By keeping an eye on large scale movements of U.S. currency, they are concurrently able to watch ways that criminal activity can be brought to our country.
By making the movement of large amounts of currency across our borders a highly supervised activity, this agency makes it harder for international crime organizations to infiltrate our country and develop their large networks through moneys brought in through illegal international operations. This strengthening of our borders makes these international groups more hesitant to attempt these network building activities.
The Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act of 1970, otherwise known as the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), sets the government as charged with establishing a dollar amount to monitor currency movements that could identify potential money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities.
The law in the United States states that any currency or monetary equivalents over $10,000 needs to be declared prior to entering or leaving the country. In the event that the person does not properly declare these funds, there are severe consequences that include cash seizure and possible additional penalties.
According to the instructions on FinCEN Form 105, the form necessary to make proper travel declaration, it is only necessary to make such reporting of United States currency or other other monetary instruments. Any transfer of funds through normal banking procedures does not need to be reported.
In a report that was released on February 1, 2013, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agency details their operations summary for fiscal year 2012. This report includes the following data:
- $1.2 billion seized goods violating intellectual property rights
- $100 million in cash seizures from targeted operations
- 4.2 million pounds of narcotics seized
These seizures are made based on continued enforcement investigations that have uncovered illegal movements of currency or goods, as well as from the lack of proper reporting of the currency movement required with FinCEN Form 105.
Examples of Cash Seizures
With the primary activity of the U.S Customs and Border Patrol occurring at the borders of the country, it is more common for crimes involving cash seizure to be discovered in those locations. The agency recapped three recent seizures around the Mexican border in the El Paso, Texas area in a report on their website dated December 18, 2012. It details how the agency has seized $55,739 in less than one week in that area.
The first case involved a pickup truck exiting the country at the El Paso port of entry. During routine inspection, border patrol officers discovered a total of $14,159 spread out in several locations throughout the truck. Since there was no reporting done of the movement of currency, that currency is instantly seized.
Another border incident occurred at the Santa Teresa port of entry, with a pickup truck crossing into Mexico. That driver had declared $8,000 was being moved across the border. Upon inspection of the vehicle, however, border patrol found more than $10,000 hidden in the shoes of two of the passengers in the truck. In the end, the truck contained $18,775 in various parts of the truck. Based on this, the CBP officers returned $8,000 to the driver and seized all money over the $8,000 he had declared.
The third was at the Presidio port of entry, attempting to enter the United States. The driver had declared under $10,000 in cash to the border patrol officers, but after searching the truck, they uncovered more than $22,000 among the driver and two passengers. Based on the information obtained during this investigation process, the officers seized the currency as well as the vehicle.
Although the primary mission of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency is to stop and prevent terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States, they have many other essential functions that they are responsible for at the same time. Of all of these activities, their are many times where illegal activities or lack of procedural correctness lead to cash seizures.
Many of the activities that are followed in monitoring potential terrorist cell activities are similar to the kinds of networks and organizations that are started and expanded in illegal drug channels and other illegal group actions.