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Bulk Cash Smuggling

Bulk cash smuggling is associated with drug trafficking or other organized criminal activities. Allegations of bulk cash smuggling involve attempting to evade reporting requirements and detection by law enforcement and financial regulators. Bulk cash smuggling is a reporting offense under the Bank Secrecy Act.

For example, if a person transports more than $10,000 in currency or other monetary instruments into or out of the United States, then the person must report it to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) using the Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (FinCEN Form 105).

If you failed to accurately report the currency or monetary instrument as required, then the property can be seized and subject to a forfeiture action and you can be charged with a crime. In the vast majority of these cases, the money is seized for a civil asset forfeiture proceeding, but no one is ever arrested or prosecuted for any crime including buck cash suggling under Title 31, United States Code, Section 5332(c)(1).

Investigations for smuggling large amounts of cash are conducted by officers Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These investigations target the misuse of Money Service Businesses (MSB) and emerging payment systems, professional money launderers, funnel accounts and trade-based money laundering.

For cases in the Tampa Bay area, cash is often seized at the Tampa International Airport or the Port of Tampa because it is illicit or unreported. These seizures take place throughout the United States at international airports, border crossings into Mexico and Canada, and at other ports of entry.

After the seizure of your money, you need to hire an experienced attorney to fight for the quick return of your property while protecting yourself from any accusation by the government.

Attorney for Bulk Cash Smuggling in Florida

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, Florida, can represent you in a civil asset forfeiture proceeding throughout Florida or the United States. We can help protect you from criminal accusations as you fight for the return of the currency or monetary instrument.

If you were arrested at the airport in Tampa or throughout Florida or the rest of the United States, then contact us to discuss your case. We represent clients after their money is seized at the airport before a domestic or international flight at airports across the country.

With offices in downtown Tampa, FL, just a few blocks from the federal courthouse, we represent clients after their money or property is seized for forfeiture by law enforcement officers with the federal government.

If your money was seized because failed to report it or inaccurately reported bringing more than $10,000 into or out of the United States, then we can help. Our attorneys are familiar with investigations for illegally importing or exporting concealed bulk cash.

Call 813-250-0500.


Bulk-cash Smuggling Statute in § 5332

The bulk-cash smuggling statute in Subpart (a)(1) of section 5332(a), punishes anyone who:

“with the intent to evade a currency reporting requirement under section 5316, knowingly conceals more than $10,000 in currency or other monetary instruments on the person of such individual or in any conveyance, article of luggage, merchandise, or other container, and transports or transfers or attempts to transport or transfer such currency or monetary instruments from a place within the United States to a place outside of the United States ….”

The cross-referenced provision, 31 U.S.C. § 5316, generally requires that “a person or an agent or bailee of the person … file a report … when [he] knowingly … transports, is about to transport, or has transported, monetary instruments” over “$10,000 at one time … from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States….”

And subpart (a)(2) of the bulk-cash-smuggling statute makes clear that “concealment of currency on the person of any individual includes concealment in any article of clothing worn by the individual or in any luggage, backpack, or other container worn or carried by such individual.”

Section 5324(c), the currency-structuring statute, prohibits a person from “structur[ing] … any importation or exportation of monetary instruments” for the purpose of “evading” section 5316’s reporting requirements. Section 5324(c) covers those who “structure or assist in structuring, or attempt to structure or assist in structuring.”


Penalties and Punishments for Smuggling Bulk Cash Crimes

The penalties for bulk cash smuggling under Title 31 U.S.C. § 5332 includes:

  • Imprisonment for a period of time up to five (5) years; and
  • Forfeiture of any property, real or personal, involved in the offense, and any property traceable to such property.

Title 31 U.S.C. § 5332 prohibits smuggling or attempting to smuggle more than $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments into or out of the United States, with the specific intent to evade the U.S. currency reporting requirements codified in Title 31 U.S.C. §§ 5316 and 5317.

Related offenses include Title 18 U.S.C. § 1960 for Unlicensed Money Transporter/Transmitter, Title 18 U.S.C. § 1952 for Interstate and Foreign Travel or Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Enterprises, and Title 18 U.S.C. § 1956 for Money Laundering.

The authorities consider bulk cash smuggling to be serious because of its relationship with other types of criminal activity such as drug trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorism. See PATRIOT ACT § 371(a)(5), 115 Stat. 272.


Reporting the Offense under the Bank Secrecy Act

Bulk Cash Smuggling is a reporting offense under the Bank Secrecy Act, and is part of the United States Code (U.S.C.) which provides:

Whoever, with the intent to evade a currency reporting requirement, knowingly conceals more than $10,000 in currency or other monetary instruments on the person of such individual or in any conveyance, article of luggage, merchandise, or other container, and transports or transfers or attempts to transport or transfer such currency or monetary instruments from a place within the United States to a place outside of the United States, or from a place outside the United States to a place within the United States, shall be guilty of a currency smuggling offense.

The term “monetary instrument” is defined on the FinCEN Form 105 to include:

  • Coin or currency of the United States or of any other country.
  • Traveler’s checks in any form.
  • 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.
  • Incomplete instruments (including checks, promissory notes, and money orders) that are signed but on which the name of the payee has been omitted.
  • Securities or stock in bearer form or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery.

Seizures for Forfeiture in Bulk Cash Smuggling Cases

In many of these cases, even when an arrest for bulk cash smuggling is never made, the federal agents involved in the investigation will seize any currency and subject it to a civil asset forfeiture proceeding.

These forfeiture proceedings involving allegations of bulk cash smuggling are governed by the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (“CAFRA”), Pub. L. No. 106-185, 114 Stat. 202.

As CAFRA was being enacted, the legislative history indicates that Congress was concerned about the ease with which the Government could seize property through the existing, pre-CAFRA, forfeiture procedures. According to H.R. Rep. No. 106-192, 1999 WL 406892, at *12 (June 18, 1999):

“The government, under the [pre-CAFRA] approach, need not produce any admissible evidence and may deprive citizens of property based on the rankest of hearsay and the flimsiest evidence. This result clearly does not reflect the value of private property in our society, and makes the risk of an erroneous deprivation intolerable.”

After CAFRA, to be entitled to forfeiture, the Government must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that “the property is subject to forfeiture . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(1).

Further, if the Government’s theory of forfeiture is that the property was involved in the commission of a criminal offense, the Government must establish a “substantial connection” between the property and the offense. Id. § 983(c)(3).

The claimant then has the burden of proving that he is an innocent owner by a preponderance of the evidence. § 983(d)(1). Any property involved in, or traceable to, a violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5316 may be seized and forfeited to the United States. 31 U.S.C. § 5317(c)(2).

As grounds for the civil asset forfeiture, the Government often relies on 31 U.S.C. § 5332(c), which provides that any property involved in a violation of §5332(a) may be seized and forfeited to the Government.

Section 5332(a) makes it illegal to knowingly conceal more than $ 10,000.00 in cash in order to avoid filing a report with the Government regarding the transportation of the cash into or outside of the United States. For this reason, the Government must show that the money seize was concealed with the intent to evade the reporting requirements.

Stated another way, a person violates 31 U.S.C. § 5316 when he or she knowingly transports monetary instruments of more than $10,000 into the United States without filing the required report. See 31 U.S.C. § 5316(a)(1)(B).

Whoever, with the intent to evade a currency reporting requirement under section 5316, knowingly conceals more than $10,000 is guilty of a currency smuggling offense. See 31 U.S.C. § 5332.

If you were not arrested or charged with a crime, but your currency was seized, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to find out why you should fight the forfeiture by having your attorney demand the immediate return of the cash by triggering judicial court action.

Call 813-250-0500.


Additional Resources

ICE HSI on Bulk Cash Smuggling – Visit the website for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to learn more about investigations for bulk cash smuggling and civil and criminal asset forfeiture actions intended to combat cash smuggling, counterfeiting, trade fraud, and financial crimes. Smuggling currency in bulk has become the main method of moving illicit proceeds in drug trafficking organizations and other criminal enterprises out of the United States.


This article was last updated on Friday, April 29, 2022.

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