Traveling with $10,000 Cash

Over the last 17 years, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents seized nearly $2 billion across more than 30,000 seizures at airports in the United States.

Out of that total, $500 million was confiscated only because American or foreign travelers failed to declare more than $10,000 in cash before or after an international flight.

If federal agents with CBP or Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seize more than $10,000 in cash from you, call us at 813-250-0500.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm can help you file a verified claim to contest the seizure during the civil asset forfeiture proceeding.

If you are an attorney with a currency seizure case anywhere in the United States, we can co-counsel with you. Act quickly because strict and unforgiving deadlines are imposed in these cases.

An attorney can help you obtain the video surveillance from the airport, showing how the detention occurred and if the money seized was properly counted and noted on the currency inventory sheet.

Attorneys for Seizures of $10,000 in Tampa, FL

No matter where the incident occurred, the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm can help you decide what to do if you are caught traveling with more than $10,000 cash into or out of the United States.

The best result is getting the government to return 100% of the money as quickly as possible.

This article explains how much cash you can carry legally as an individual or as part of a family or group traveling together on an international flight.

Contact us to learn more about the FinCEN 105 Form (formerly known as Customs Form 4790).

After a forfeiture action is initiated against you, a record is created by the TSA, Homeland Security, and U.S. Customs & Border Protection. If you travel internationally in the future, then you might be subject to more frequent searches, detentions, or seizures.

If the Government filed a “complaint for forfeiture,” which is an in rem civil forfeiture action according to 31 U.S.C. § 5317 5317(c)(2) resulting from violations of 31 U.S.C. § 5316(a)(l ), your attorney can help you contest the action and demand a trial by jury.

The Assistant United States Attorney often wants to avoid filing a complaint for forfeiture, especially when they have little chance of success in court.

Your attorney might be able to convince the AUSA to release 100% of the money immediately instead of filing a complaint.

Contact Leslie Sammis, an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney in Tampa, FL, to learn how to get your money back after it is seized at the airport.

Call 813-250-0500.

Rules for Seizing Undisclosed Currency

Seizures are common when CBP alleges that a traveler on an international flight failed to report bringing more than $10,000 in cash.

The CBP notice of seizure letter will claim that the property was seized and is subject to forfeiture under the provisions of 31 USC 5316(a)(1)(A) or 31 USC 5317(c)(2) for the failure/inaccurate report of over $10,000 when traveling into or out of the United States.

Customs agents call these types of seizures either: “failure to report seizures” or “undisclosed currency seizures.” Sometimes agents with Customs will return a small portion of the seized money for “humanitarian reasons” and leave you with a receipt.

For cases involving people getting ready to board an international flight, the notice will allege either:

  • 31 USC 5317(c)(2), 31 USC 5316(a)(1)(A) – Failure/Inaccurate Report of Over $10,000 Out of the U.S.; or
  • 31 USC 5317(c)(2), 31 USC 5324(c) – Structuring Transactions to Evade Reporting Requirements.

The reporting requirements involve filling out a FinCEN 105 form correctly. If the form isn’t filled out properly, then CBP might argue that the money is forfeitable according to Title 31, United States Code, Section 5317(c)(2) for the “Failure to File Currency and Monetary Instrument Report.”

In addition, CBP might argue that the currency is forfeitable according to Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324 for “Structuring to Evade Reporting Requirement” if two or more people are traveling together with the intent to evade the currency reporting requirement of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5316, by knowingly divided the defendant currency between themselves so that each was transporting less than $10,000.

If your money is seized at an airport or border crossing, the agent should give you a “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence” (Form 6051S). you might also receive a “currency inventory sheet” and memorandum.

Other forms handed out by agents with CBP include the “Information on Petitioning Rights” form and the Monetary Instruments Warning Letter.

After the seizure, the Government might deposit the currency into the United States Department of Treasury Suspense Fund.

Rules for Currency Reporting with International Flights

According to CBP Publication No. 0000-0503, last revised in June of 2006, federal law does NOT prohibit transporting any amount of currency or other monetary instruments into or out of the United States.

But if you attempt to transport more than $10,000 at one time from the United States to any foreign country or into the United States from any foreign country, then you file a report with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The report for the currency is called the Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (also known as the “FinCEN Form 105).

The seizure of U.S. Currency before or after an international flight is common at airports in Florida, including:

  • Tampa International Airport (TPA) in Tampa
  • St Petersburg International Airport (PIE) in St Petersburg
  • Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) in Sarasota
  • Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) in West Palm Beach
  • Miami International Airport (MIA) in Miami
  • Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) in Daytona Beach
  • Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) in Fort Lauderdale
  • Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers
  • Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) in Jacksonville
  • Key West International Airport (EYW) in Key West
  • Melbourne International Airport (MLB) in Melbourne
  • Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) in Orlando
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO) in Orlando
  • Panama City – Bay County International Airport (PFN) in Panama City

Additionally, you must also file a FinCEN Form 105 (formerly known as Customs Form 4790) if receive currency or other monetary instruments in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000 at one time, which has been transported, mailed, or shipped to you in the United States from any foreign place.

The FinCEN Form 105 can be obtained at all U.S. ports of entry and departure. You can also find the form online.

The rules for transporting more than $10,000 into or out of the United States can be found in the Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act (PL 97-258, 31 U.S.C. 5311, et seq.).

What is FinCEN Form 105?

Under 31 USC § 5316, federal law requires any person traveling internationally to fill out and provide a copy of the Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (FinCEN Form 105).

The FinCEN 105 form was formerly known as Customs Form 4790, which is now obsolete).

The FinCEN 105 form is used to report the amount of currency being carried to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”) at or before arrival or departure.

The FinCEN Form 105 is required if the person is transporting more than $10,000 in U.S. cash, currency, or equivalent. This provision of federal law gives the federal government an easy way to find and take money that comes from illegal sources or is used for illegal reasons.

Although most reasons for bringing large sums of money into or out of the United States are innocent, CBP also deals with money involved in the drugs or narcotics trade, tax evasion, or money laundering.

For this reason, the failure to report the cash being carried into or out of the country constitutes a serious violation of federal law.

For purposes of the FinCEN Form 105 reporting requirements, the term “a foreign country” includes all locations outside of the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

U.S. military banking facilities are generally excluded from the term “a foreign country.”

In other words, you can carry more than $10,000 cash on a flight to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Guam, without the need to fill out a FinCEN Form 105.

The receipt will list the “FPF Number” used by the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Office of Customs (“FP&F”). The receipt shows that money was seized, who seized it, and the contact information for the agent involved.

Knowledge of the Reporting Requirements

You might be entitled to get all the money back in a court action by showing that CBP violated constitutional due process rights by failing to provide the traveler with sufficient notice regarding the currency reporting requirement before it seized the property.

Individuals must know about the 31 U.S.C. § 5613 currency reporting requirement before their money is subject to being seized and forfeited. See United States v. $173,081.04, 835 F.2d 1141, 1143 (5th Cir. 1988).

If the traveler is not provided with that notice, the traveler is deprived of due process.

Additional defenses can be raised by demanding court action if you can show that forfeiting the entire amount would be a grossly disproportionate penalty for what was, at most, a technical violation of a statute that the traveler was unaware existed.

As such, the seizure might violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Using the Form 105 FinCEN  for Reporting Cash

The FinCEN 105 form for reporting cash must show the amount of currency or the total value of the monetary instruments being taken into or out of the United States. The form must be timely filed.

The FinCEN Form 105 is required for any of the following:

  • Cash, currency, or coins for the United States or any foreign country;
  • Travelers’ checks or money orders;
  • Bearer negotiable instruments in bearer form, endorsed without restriction, made out to a fictitious payee, or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery, including:
    • a business or personal check
    • bank checks
    • cashier’s checks
    • promissory notes.
  • Stock on which title is passed on delivery, bearer securities, bearer investment securities, or any similar type of item.

If the FinCEN 105 form is not inaccurate or no form was submitted, then a customs agent might seize the cash for forfeiture.

Under limited circumstances, federal law might allow agents to “stop and search, at the border and without a search warrant, any vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or other conveyance, any envelope or other container, and any person entering or departing from the United States” that violates the $10,000 cash rule.

Read more about the seizure of money orders for civil asset forfeiture proceedings.

What Happens When Customs Conducts a Search for Cash?

When Customs decides to search for cash or currency, the agent will usually begin by asking questions before the person’s flight departs or after the person goes through a customs inspection or passport control area.

These types of searches might also occur when someone crosses the border into or out of Mexico or Canada.

Border agents base their decisions on who to search based on various factors, including the person’s itinerary, length of stay, or ethnicity.

When the search and seizure occurs, the federal agent might take the money and ask questions about the person’s failure to report, the source of the funds, individual finances, and travel plans.

The interrogation often comes with the threat of being arrested or subjected to continued detention. The agent might refuse to allow the person to amend their declaration to fix the problem.

As a general rule, not understanding the cash reporting requirement is not a defense or an excuse for the forfeiture action. Federal law requires that the failure to report must be done knowingly, but the case law interpreting this law often requires only that the person knowing transports $10,000 or more.

The government can impose both civil and criminal penalties for failing to report violations, although most people are not charged with a crime. In fact, your unreported cash can be seized and subjected to forfeiture even if you are not ever charged or found guilty of any crime for failing to report.

The civil penalties for a failure to report $10,000 in cash or more are the forfeiture of the money and a possible penalty of not “more than the amount of the monetary instrument for which the report was required.”

Currency Inspections by Customs Officers at the Tampa International Airport

What happens when a United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (“Customs”) officer conducts inbound or outbound currency inspections at the Tampa International Airport?

When a Customs officer approaches travelers on international flights at the airport in Tampa, the officer might be conducting a currency inspection.

The Customs officer might ask how much money the traveler is transporting.

If the Customs officer becomes suspicious, the Customs officer might refer the traveler to a secondary inspection to search their persons and baggage more thoroughly.

During the secondary inspection, the Customs officers might explain the currency reporting requirements. After the verbal declarations are confirmed, the Customs officer might present the traveler with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FINCEN”) Form No. 105.

Because of any delay caused by the investigation, the Customs supervisory officer might notify the airline personnel that the traveler will miss their flight and request that the checked-in luggage is removed from the plane and taken directly to the Federal Inspection Station.

The traveler might then be escorted to the Federal Inspection Station for further investigation.

Based on the inspection and inconsistent statements, Customs officers might determine that the traveler was attempting to transport U.S. Currency from the United States to another country. The officers might seize the currency for failure to accurately report the transportation of currency according to 31 U.S.C. § 5316(a)(1).

Standing to Contest the Forfeiture of Currency at the Airport

The Government might object the traveler having “standing” to contest the forfeiture if their ties to the currency are speculative.

To contest a governmental forfeiture action, claimants must have statutory standing through compliance with Rule C(6) of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions, as well as the Article III standing required for any action brought in federal court.

Rule C(6) provides:

The claimant of property that is the subject of an action in rem shall file a claim within 10 days after process has been executed, or within such additional time as may be allowed by the court, and shall serve an answer within 20 days after the filing of the claim.

The claim shall be verified on oath or solemn affirmation, and shall state the interest in the property by virtue of which the claimant demands its restitution and the right to defend the action.

If the claim is made on behalf of the person entitled to possession by an agent, bailee, or attorney, it shall state that the agent, bailee, or attorney is duly authorized to make the claim.

To establish Article III standing, “a claimant must have a colorable ownership, possessory or security interest in at least a portion of the defendant property.” United States v. $515,060.42 in U.S. Currency, 152 F.3d 491, 497 (6th Cir. 1998).

The standing requirement in Article II is satisfied because an owner or possessor of property that has been seized necessarily suffers an injury that can be redressed at least in part by the return of the seized property.” Id.

In other words, to establish standing, the claimants need only claim a facially colorable interest in the seized property, not prove the merits of their underlying claim. Id. at 497-98.

Claims of “naked possession” are generally insufficient to establish standing. Instead, the claimant must provide some explanation or contextual information regarding their relationship to the seized property, including:

  • how the claimants came to possess the property;
  • the nature of the claimant’s relationship to the property; or
  • the story behind the claimants’ control of the property.

Although an ownership interest is the most obvious type of interest in seized property that constitutes a colorable claim, other types of property interest less than ownership may also be sufficient to create standing. For example, possessory interests may be sufficient to bestow standing to contest a forfeiture.

How to Contest an Airport Currency Forfeiture Action

To contest a forfeiture action, claimants bear the burden of demonstrating an interest in the seized item sufficient to satisfy the Court of their standing as claimants.

The courts have generally declined to adopt any type of hard-and-fast requirement for the initial evidentiary showing necessary for standing.

Article III merely requires that claimants allege a personal stake in the controversy’s outcome, such as an actual or threatened injury.

The Government may challenge whether the claimant’s interest in the defendant property is sufficient to confer standing by questioning the claimant’s factual allegations. But the information sought through interrogatories should be limited to determining whether the claimants have a real interest in the property.

Read more about what you should do if you receive a notice of “final administrative action” from a Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture Officer in the CBP Field Office near the airport. We can help you file a claim for court action if you are dissatisfied with the petition decision.

Filing a claim for court action and a referral to the U.S. Attorney is the only way to STOP the administrative forfeiture of the property to the government.

Defenses in Currency Forfeiture Airport Cases

If your currency was taken by a Customs officer at the airport, your attorney can assert defenses on your behalf including a showing that the Government’s claim:

  • fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted;
  • may not be redressed by the remedy it seeks;
  • is barred by estoppel;
  • is barred by waiver;
  • is barred because the traveler was at all relevant times engaged in a legal business enterprise;
  • is barred by the innocent owner defense when the innocent owners, did not know, or have reason to know, that the property in question was being employed or was likely to be employed, if employed at all, in prohibited activity;
  • is barred because the parties from whom the property in question was seized, if they act in a prohibited manner at all, did not do so knowingly;
  • is barred because the Claimants acted in good faith at all times relevant to the Complaint;
  • is barred because the allegations contained in the Complaint are compound, vague, inconsistent, and ambiguous;
  • the Government’s seizure of the defendant property violates the Claimants’ rights, under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to be free from illegal searches and seizures;
  • is barred because it obtained the seizure warrant through incorrect, misleading, inconsistent or incomplete allegations;
  • is barred because the defendant property was not involved in any cognizable offense;
  • is barred by the doctrine of unclean hands;
  • the Government cannot obtain the forfeiture it seeks because that result would be constitutionally disproportionate;
  • is barred because the Government has not acted in good faith;
  • the Government executed the action without notice or an opportunity to be heard afforded to the Claimants;
  • the seizure deprived the Claimants of property without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution;
  • the seizure and forfeiture in controversy violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution;
  • the Court lacks jurisdiction over the defendant in rem and the claim is barred because notice by Plaintiff was not provided as statutorily required.

Statute of Limitations for the Failure to Report $10,000 in Cash

The civil statute of limitations for a failure to report cash is six (6) years from the date of the violation.

If a civil money penalty is assessed but not paid, the federal government has two (2) years from the date the civil money penalty was assessed or the date the judgment in a related criminal action becomes final, whichever is later, to file an action.

Charges for failing to report are punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison and fines for up to $500,000. The criminal statute of limitations for failing to report cash is five (5) years from the violation date.

Even if you were not arrested when CBP seized the money, you might later face criminal charges if federal agents or the U.S. Attorney’s Office later discovers evidence that the money had an illegally intended use or is derived from an illegal source.

In addition to civil or criminal penalties for the failure to report related charges, including bulk cash smuggling crimes in Florida.

The AUSA’s Complaint for Forfeiture of U.S. Currency In Rem

What happens after you file a verified claim? The AUSA then has 90 days to file a VERIFIED COMPLAINT OF FORFEITURE IN REM. In the Verified Complaint of Forfeiture In Rem, the AUSA will allege:

  1. This is a civil action for forfeiture in rem against a specific amount of United States currency listed in the complaint.
  2. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Sections 1345 and 1355.
  3. The Court has venue over the defendant currency pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Sections 1395(a) and (b).
  4. The defendant currency is forfeitable pursuant to Title 31, United States Code, Section 5317(c)(2) [Failure to File Currency and Monetary Instrument Report], as it represents currency or property, belonging to the person from whom it was seized at the airport involved in a currency reporting violation under Title 31 United States Code, Section 5316.
  5. The defendant currency is forfeitable pursuant to Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324 [Structuring to Evade Reporting Requirement], because two people traveling together on an international flight did with the intent to evade the currency reporting requirement of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5316, knowingly divided the defendant currency between themselves so that each was transporting less than $10,000 from a place inside the United States to a place outside the United States.

The facts of the case often allege that the travelers were attempting to depart from an airport in the United States for an international flight overseas.

The complaint will allege that the travelers were given a Customs and Border Protection Form 503 (“CBP Form 503”), outbound currency reporting questionnaires, and Supplemental Form 503 informing them of the Federal requirement to declare all out-bound United States currency over $10,000.00.

In these cases, the travelers might each sign a questionnaire stating that they were not carrying currency or monetary instruments over $10,000 in United States currency.

It might also be alleged on the questionnaires that the travelers answered “no” to the following questions:

  1. “Are you transporting more than $10,000 in monetary instruments for yourself and/or someone else?”
  2. “Are you transporting any packages or money given to you or for someone else?”

The form requires the travelers to acknowledge in writing their understanding of the reporting requirements as stated on the CP 503.

If the total amount of U.S. currency in possession of travelers was more than $10,000, then a CBP agent might seize the cash. During the seizure, the CBP agent might allege that the traveler admitted that all of the U.S. currency belonged to him or that he lied to evade the reporting requirements.

If one traveler files a REQUEST FOR REMISSION OR MITIGATION OF FORFEITURE, claiming ownership of more than $10,000 in U.S. Currency, then that fact will be used against them in the complaint.

The AUSA will then allege that the U.S. currency is forfeitable pursuant to Title 31, United States Code, Section 5317( c )(2), as it represents currency or property belonging to one traveler involved in a currency reporting violation under Title 31 United States Code, Section 5316.

The complaint might also allege that the currency is also forfeitable pursuant to Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324, since two travelers structured the U.S. Currency with the intent to evade the currency reporting requirement of Title 31 , United States Code, Section 5316, by knowingly dividing the currency to take it on an international flight.

In the complaint, the United States of America will request that:

  • process in due of law according to the procedures of the Court in cases of actions in rem in accordance with provisions of Rule C (3), Supplemental Rules of Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims issued against the defendant currency, and that any person or persons having any interest therein be cited;
  • the Court direct any such person to appear and answer this complaint as required by Title 18, United States Code, Section 983(a)(4)(A);
  • the Court decree the condemnation and forfeiture of the defendant currency to the United States and that the plaintiff has such other and further relief as may be just and proper.

Read more about how attorneys respond to the complaint for Forfeiture In Rem.

Receipt for Release for Humanitarian Purposes of Unreported Money

After CBP or HSI seizes the money for a reporting violation, it might issue a custody receipt for seized property and evidence from the Department of Homeland Security Form 6051S.

The remarks section might show “humanitarian release in the amount of $____ USD” or “unreported currency.”

You might also receive a “Currency Inventory Sheet” that lists the seizing officer and verifying officer, seizure date, incident number, location of money, amount of money listed by denomination, amount of money seized, and amount of currency returned “for humanitarian reasons.”

In addition to the receipt and the currency inventory sheet, you might receive a memorandum that provides:

The currency and foreign transactions reporting act requires that when monetary instruments which total in access of $10,000 in U.S. dollars or foreign equivalent, are transported into or from the United States, the total transported must be reported to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Failure to properly do so may result in the seizure, possible forfeiture and criminal prosecution.

A total of $_____ was seized today under the provision of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5316 and 5317. You were given a receipt for $_______ which is being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A total of $____ was returned to you for humanitarian purposes.

In approximately one week you will receive a letter from the fines, penalties & forfeitures division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection instructing you as how to petition for the return of the seized money and any penalty which may be invoked.

DHS Form 6051S Referencing Handbook 5200-09

If your cash was seized at the airport by an agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection or Homeland Security Investigations, you would be provided with a 16-digit FPF Case Number.

You might also receive a form listing the contact information for the CBP’s local Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture (FP&F) Office.

The form will list the hours of operation, the location and mailing address, the phone number, the fax number, and the email address. When contacting the FP&F Office, the form instructs you to include your full name, telephone number, and FPF case number. The FPF case number is also located in Block number 1 of the DHS Form 6051S.

The DHS Form 6051S (08/09) is a Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. After referencing Handbook 5200-09 as a reference source, the form provides blocks for the following information:

  1. FPF No.
  2. Incident No.
  3. Investigative Case No.
  4. EID Event Number
  5. Prior Detention?
  6. Date Seized
  7. Time Seized
  8. FDIN/Misc
  9. Seize From: Name: Address: Telephone number
  10. Entry No.
  11. Other ID Nos.
  12. Remarks
  13. Send Correspondence to: U.S. CBP/ATTN: FPFO, [address]
  14. Property (By Line Item) Attach CPB 5b if conveyance.
    • Line Item No.
    • Description
    • Packages (Number, Type)
    •  Measurements (Qty, UM)
    • Est. Dom. Value
  15. Seizing Officer (print name, signature, date)
  16. Acceptance/Chain of custody
    • Line Item No.
    • Description
    • Print Name/Title/Organization
    • Signature
    • Date

At the bottom of the form, it indicates whether a DHS Form 6051A Continuation Sheet is attached.

CBP’s Forms on Monetary Instruments Reporting Requirements

After your money is seized at the airport, the agent with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) might hand you several other forms, including:

  1. Monetary Instruments Reporting Requirements Form
    • explains why U.S. Law (the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act – 31 USC 5311 et seq.) requires that when any combination of monetary instruments totaling more than $10,000 in U.S. dollars or foreign equivalent are transported or about to be transported must be reported to CBP on aa FinCEN Form 105 (formerly Customs Form 4790).
  2. Information on Petitioning Rights Form
    • lists the FP&P Case Number and Seizure Number
    • explains the claimant’s rights concerning the above seizure/case number
    • promises the claimant that within 30-60 days, they will receive a “Formal Notice of Seizure” and “Election of Proceedings.” 
  3. Receipt Acknowledgement Form Monetary Instruments Form
    • acknowledges receiving the Information of Petition Letter and the Monetary Instruments Warning Letter.
  4. Custody Receipt and Seized Property and Evidence (DHS Form 6051S(8/09)
    • form from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s form referencing Handbook 5200-09
    • lists the FPF No., Incident No., Investigative Case No., EID Event Number, Date and Time Seized, FDIN/Misc., Contact Information for the Person from whom the Asset was Seized From, and Property.

MONETARY INSTRUMENTS Reporting Requirements Form

CBP’s MONETARY INSTRUMENTS Reporting Requirements Form provides:

United States law (Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act – 31 USC 5311 et seq.) requires that when any combination of monetary instruments, described below, which totals in excess of $10,000 in United States dollars or the foreign equivalent are transported or about to be transported into or from the United States, or received in the United States, from abroad, the total transported, about to be transported, or received must be reported to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on a FinCEN Form 105 (formerly Customs Form 4790).

“Monetary Instruments” is defined in the law and regulations as:

  1. United States coins and currency
  2. Foreign coins and currency
  3. Travelers Checks
  4. Bearer negotiable instruments (including personal, business, bank, and third party checks, promissory notes, and money orders), and instruments the title to which passes on mere physical delivery.
  5. Securities and investment securities (including stocks and bonds) in bearer form or otherwise in such form so that title passes on delivery.


The transportation of monetary instruments of $10,000 or less may sometimes be subject to reporting requirements if they are part of or related to larger transactions, which will total in excess of $10,000.


Received by: __________________ Seizure #:_______________
Passenger’s signature and date

** Provide copy to passenger **


CBP’s form entitled “Information on Petitioning Rights” provides:

Within thirty to sixty days, you will receive a “Formal Notice of Seizure” advising you of your rights concerning the property seized in this case. To preserve your rights, it is important to read the notice and accompanying forms carefully.

The “Notice of Seizure” will include a page headed “Election of Proceedings.” Your petition cannot be considered unless you submit the “Election of Proceedings.”

The purpose of this form is to permit you to choose between your options:

  1. Asking the government to delay forfeiture proceedings until your petition can be considered; or
  2. Advising the government that you want the forfeiture proceedings to commence immediately.

After you receive the “FORMAL NOTICE OF SEIZURE,” you may call or write the office below for forfeiture assistance. If you have not received the notice within thirty to sixty days of the seizure, you should phone this office immediately:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
[[address and telephone number of the appropriate office in the area where the seizure occurred]]

Please have the seizure number when you phone the FINES, PENALTIES, AND FORFEITURES (FP&F) office at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The seizure number follows the letters “CN” in the upper right-hand corner of the “Former Notice of Seizure.” It will begin with the fiscal year (ex: 2021), followed by a port code (ex: 5501) and a unique six-digit number.

FP&F Case Number: 20215501XXXXXXXX
Seizure Number:

CBP’s Receipt Acknowledgement Form

CBP’s Receipt Acknowledgement Form on Monetary Instruments provides:

Seizure #: ____________ Date: ________

I hereby acknowledge the following:

  1. receipt of the Information on Petitioning Rights explaining petitioning rights regarding the above seizure/case number.
  2. receipt of the Monetary Instruments Warning Letter explaining the reporting requirements of the Currency Reporting Act.
  3. the return of all monies minus the mitigated penalty.
  4. the return of all seized monetary instruments.


Signature of Passenger

CBP’s Requested Forfeiture Settlement Documents

When Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is unable to proceed with court action, then it might send a letter that provides as follows:

This letter is to officially advise that this office has made a determination to release the U.S. Currency in the amount of $______.

The currency was seized on [date], under the provisions of 31 USC 5332(c), 31 USC 5332(a) – Concealed Bulk Cash/Export 31 USC 5317(c)(2), 31 USC 5316(a)(1)(A) – Failure/Inaccurate Report of Over $10,000 Out of the U. S.

Since the time of detention, this office has determined to release the currency once the following conditions are met:

    1. Execution and return of the enclosed Hold Harmless Agreement.
    2. Execution and return of the enclosed Payment Authorization.

Upon receipt of the above, this office will request a refund from our National Finance Center. The check will be made payable to: ____________ unless otherwise specified in writing to the contrary.

Please note that by accepting this remission decision, you are waiving any claim to attorney’s fees, interest, or any other relief not specifically provided for in this decision.

You have thirty (30) days from the date of this letter to comply with the decision or, in accordance with 19 CFR 171.61, to file a supplemental petition.

If no response is received within thirty (30) days, administrative forfeiture proceedings will continue, and the property will be forfeited accordingly.

Should you require additional information, please contact [name] of the Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Office, at (813) 250-0500.


The hold harmless release agreement drafted by an attorney at CBP often provides the following:

FP&F Case Number:
Description of Property: $_____ in U.S. Currency
Released to: [name of claimant]

This Agreement is made between [name of claimant] and the Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security.

This Agreement is made in consideration of the return of the property described above, which is the subject of the FP&F Case Number shown above and was seized for violation of Customs Regulations and for other consideration, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged.

In consideration of the release of the above-listed property to the above-named party, I, [name of claimant], hereby release and forever discharge the United States, its officers, agents, servants, and employees, their heirs, successors or assigns, from any action, suits, proceedings, debts, dues, contracts, judgments, damages, claims and/or demands whatsoever in law or equity which I, my heirs, successors or assigns ever had, now have, or may have in the future in connection with detention, seizure and/or release by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection of the above-listed property.

I further agree to hold and save the United States, its officers, agents, servants and employees, their heirs, successors or assigns, harmless from any claims by any others including costs and expenses for or account of any and all lawsuits or claims of any character whatsoever in connection with detention, seizure and/or release by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection of the above-listed property.

In addition, I agree to reimburse the United States, its employees, or agents from any necessary expenses, attorney’s fees, or costs incurred in the enforcement of any part of this agreement within thirty (30) days after receiving written notice that the United States, its employees, or agent has incurred them.

Name (Print): _________
Address: ___________
Signature*: __________

Date: _______________

SUBSCRIBED BEFORE ME this _____ day of _____
Notary Public (Signature): ____________________
My Commission Expires: _____________________

Customs Officer (Print Name) Customs Officer (Signature)
* Either a CBP Officer or a Notary must witness the signing of this document

Humanitarian Release Worksheet – CBP Form 6052

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) might complete a Humanitarian Release Worksheet in the seizure package forwarded to FP&F.

The worksheet lists the FP&P Case Number, the Line Item Number, and the Total Amount of the Seizure.

The agent seizing the U.S. Currency must determine whether other resources are available to the traveler, including access to credit cards, debit cards, checking accounts, or savings accounts.

Even if other resources are available to the traveler, the agent may still grant the release of funds for humanitarian purposes, particularly small amounts of foreign currency and coins.

The recommended release amounts are listed on the form with instructions to start at mid-range for dollar release amount depending on factors. For example, the recommended release amounts include the following:

  • if the seized amount is $10,000 to $24,999 then the amount to be released is $100 – $1,000;
  • if the seized amount is $25,000 to $74,999 then the amount to be released is $500 – $3,000;
  • if the seized amount is $75,000 to $99,999 then the amount to be released is $ 700 – $5,000; and
  • if the seize amount exceeds $100,000 then the amount to be released is $1,000 – $7,000.

The factors to be considered include but are not limited to the following:

  • traveling more than 100 miles from the port of entry;
  • traveling with children, infirm, or elderly; or
  • traveling without accommodations at the destination.

The agent can also deviate from the recommended release amount if the reason is listed.

If the CMI is a mixture of foreign and U.S. currency, the worksheet suggests that the foreign currency should be returned as humanitarian release whenever feasible.

The amount released must be recorded as a separate line item number in the SAS Report, described as “Humanitarian Release,” and documented on a separate CBP Form 6051S.

The property line for humanitarian release must be recorded in SEACATS as category code “CCM,” legal status “SZ” and physical status “RH.”

In no instance should the amount released for humanitarian reasons result in the remaining seizure amount below the reporting requirement amount of $10,000.

The seizing officer and their approving supervisor must sign the form on the CBP Form 6052.

Additional Resources

Airport Cash Seizures and Forfeitures in Seattle – Read more about how seizures for forfeitures are handled at the international airport in Seattle, WA, known as Sea-Tac. Many of these cases involve detectives with the Port of Seattle Police Department, the CBP, HSI, or DEA.

Finding a Lawyer to Contest Currency Forfeiture

We help travelers get their money back after federal agents seize United States Currency at the airport.

Most of these seizures are conducted by agents with the United States Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Customs and Border Protection (“CBP” or “Customs”), or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In many of these cases, the seizure comes with an allegation that the traveler failed to accurately report the transportation of currency under 31 U.S.C. § 5316(a)(1) while attempting to transport the U.S. Currency from the United States to another county on an international flight.

We can help you secure the immediate return of your property or help you if the United States files a civil judicial forfeiture complaint against the currency under 31 U.S.C. Section 5317(c)(2). We can help you file a Seized Asset Claims Form and pled sufficient allegations to establish a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy.

Depending on the facts of the case, we might be able to help you seek attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with this action under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000, the Equal Access to Justice Act, and other statutes, rules, or regulations.

When it comes to claims that a traveler failed to file a lawful Currency and Monetary Instrument Report when carrying $10,000 at the airport, we can help.

Call 813-250-0500.

This article was last updated on Friday, April 21, 2023.