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Seizure of U.S. Currency from a FedEx or UPS Package

What happens when a local police department works on parcel interdiction at the FedEx facility? The police are looking for packages that contain U.S. Currency (cash).

Most parcel interdiction is conducted by DEA agents and DEA interdiction Task Force Groups (TFGs). These DEA agents and TFGs conduct parcel interdiction by working with commercial shipping and delivery companies to interdict drugs or drug proceeds that have been packed and shipped through these companies.

Shipping money through FedEx or UPS is not a crime, although the terms of service prohibit the shipment of cash or U.S. Currency. By using UPS or FedEx, you are authorizing it to forward information regarding shipments to governmental or regulatory agencies that request such information.

For example, the Express Terms and Conditions listed in the 2021 FedEx Service Guide explains:

Prohibited items

You are prohibited from tendering the following items for shipment, and you agree not to do so:

a. Cash and currency…

At FedEx and UPS, officers often gain permission to monitor packages at the site. In some cases, an employee at FedEx or UPS will call the police to alert them to a suspicious package. In other cases, a K9 drug dog might “alert” to a suspicious package.

To find the prohibited items such as U.S. Currency, the police might look for packages that heavily taped, vacuum-sealed, or use insulated bags or foam insulation.

Why do law enforcement officers and local police departments focus on parcel interdiction at UPS and FedEx? Looking for U.S. Currency in packages at UPS and FedEx provides huge indirect “profits” for the law enforcement agency that seizes property for forfeiture.

Those who are wronged by the forfeiture process end up paying attorney fees, even when the money was mistakenly seized from an innocent person.

The terms of use also explain that civil and criminal penalties, including forfeiture, may be imposed for making false or fraudulent statements or for the violation of any country laws on exportation, including but not limited to, for shipments originating in the U.S., 13 U.S.C. 305; 22 U.S.C. 401; 18 U.S.C. 1001; and 50 U.S.C. App. 2410.

Attorney for Seizures of Cash from FedEx or UPS for Forfeiture in the U.S.

If your FedEx or UPS package was seized by law enforcement, then the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm can help you get the package back. If FedEx or UPS discovers money or U.S. Currency in the package, then they will contact law enforcement who might seize the package for forfeiture.

If your package was seized, a state or federal law enforcement officer might knock on your door during an investigation. You are not required to make a statement.

Instead, you can exercise your rights under the 5th and 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution by saying: “I have already hired an attorney. I will not make any statements until my attorney is here with me.”

After a bulk cash seizure from a FedEx or UPS package, contact Attorney Leslie Sammis who is experienced fighting civil asset forfeiture cases to get the money back. She often takes the civil asset forfeiture cases on a contingency fee basis which means you pay nothing until the money is returned.

The seizure of U.S. Currency from a FedEx or UPS package is all too common. Law enforcement officers sometimes claim that money is shipped from states where marijuana is more expensive to states where marijuana is cheaper, while the marijuana itself goes the opposite direction. Many of these packages go from Florida to Colorado, California, Oregon, or Washington.

After the money is seized, the agency that seized the money must provide notice. The notice of seizure and intent to forfeit might be in the form of a personal letter or in the form of a notice published online. Either way, the first step is getting ahold of the notice so that you know the deadlines involved in making a claim.

In some cases, we can make the claim even before the notice arrives which might speed up the return of the property by weeks or months.

In any forfeiture proceeding, the state or federal law enforcement agency will allege that the U.S. Currency came from an illegal source or was being used for an unlawful purpose.

The allegations of wrongdoing in these cases are often highly circumstantial. For instance, the law enforcement agency might claim that the money was involved in a drug scheme or money laundering based on one of the following factors:

  • the place the money came from or was headed;
  • the fact that a large amount of U.S. Currency is being shipped;
  • the way the money is packaged;
  • the fact that other packages were shipped the same way; and
  • statements made by the sender or intended recipient.

If your money was seized by UPS or FedEx, then contact an experienced asset forfeiture attorney in Tampa, FL, at Sammis Law Firm. Leslie Sammis has been fighting these cases for more than 10 years. She can help you decide how to respond after your property is seized from UPS or FedEx for seizure and a forfeiture proceeding.

We can help you track down the notice of seizure, file a verified claim, and challenge an illegal search or seizure.

Call 813-250-0500.


Civil Asset Forfeiture Procedures for Bulk Cash Seized from UPS or FedEx

Instead of answering questions from the state or federal agent, contact an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney to discuss the facts of the case including:

  • where the package came from and where it was headed;
  • how payment for the package was made;
  • whether similar packages were sent or received;
  • when and where the package was seized;
  • whether statements were made to UPS or FedEx;
  • whether statements were made to law enforcement;
  • why the cash or seized property was being shipped; or
  • whether a legitimate source for the cash can be shown.

The issue in these cases is whether the officer who intercepted the package had probable cause to think the package was related to drug trafficking or money laundering.

In many of these cases, local law enforcement officers will turn the cash over to a federal agency, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which then “adopts” the property for a forfeiture proceeding under federal law.

The issue in these cases is whether the law enforcement officer unlawfully seized the package. To lawfully seize the package for investigative purposes, the law enforcement officer must have reasonable suspicion that the package contains contraband.

The package is “seized” when it is removed from its ordinary progress and is diverted for further investigation. When determining whether the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a package contains contraband, the officer must have more than an “inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch.” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). Instead, the officer needs “a particularized and objective basis” for the suspicion. Id.

The law enforcement officer uses a canine K9 drug dog to investigate packages at a UPS or FedEx shipping facility. The officers are particularly interested in packages being shipped to a “source” state such as California.

The officers will look to see who paid for the shipping fee and whether it was paid for with cash. Officers also target packages that are shipped priority overnight with no signature required upon delivery. Sometimes employees at UPS or FedEx will secretly flag suspicious packages for law enforcement officers.

The officer then uses the dog to “alert” to the package so that a search warrant can be obtained. In many cases, that kind of “alert” is meaningless because no drugs are ever found. The officers must keep a log of “false positive” alerts, but the attorney has to demand that log and investigation the dog’s records of false-positive alerts to show the phony nature of the procedures used by law enforcement.

In some states, the officer might obtain a court order to transfer the money to a federal agency (usually the Drug Enforcement Administrative (DEA)) for adoption.

If a federal agency seized the cash or if the federal agency “adopts” the seized property, then the forfeiture proceeding must follow federal law. In federal cases, the agency that seized the cash must send personal notice of the seizure and intent to forfeit within 60 days. If a state agency transferred the case to the federal agency, then the deadline is 90 days to send the personal notice.

Since the government wants to separate you from the money for as long as possible, they often wait until the end of that deadline to send the personal notice. Sometimes the notice goes to the wrong address. An attorney can make sure you get a copy of the notice.

In addition to the personal notice, the government must post the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit online.

Once notice is received, you only have 35 days to file a claim for court action. An attorney can make sure the verified claim is filled out properly, includes all of the required information, and is filed and received by the agency before the deadline expires.

Many people acting pro se by representing themself send the claim without verification or other required information, or send the claim past the deadline. To meet the deadline, the claim must be actually received by the agency (in their hand) by the deadline, not simply put in the mail.


What Does FedEx Tracking Say if a Package is Seized for Forfeiture?

If a FedEx package is intercepted because it contains U.S. Currency, the tracking notes will eventually say “delivered” but the notes might indicate “signed for by: POLICESEIZED.” If you see that notation of “POLICESEIZED” or “SEIZEDBYLEO,” then you know that a law enforcement officer or agency took possession of the package.

FedEx might give you a number for the agency that seized the package or the case agent. Either way, anything you say to FedEx or law enforcement might later be used against you.

The law enforcement seizes cash for civil asset forfeiture proceedings. If law enforcement seizes a package with drugs, it might attempt a “controlled deliver.” In controlled delivery, UPS or FedEx will deliver the package (often with a delay). Law enforcement will then track any person that comes into contact with the package with the goal of catching a suspect in possession of the package so an arrest can be made.


Techniques Used by Alleged Drug Dealers When Shipping U.S. Currency with FedEx

Law enforcement officers focused on the detection of suspicious parcels look for certain techniques that controlled substance traffickers might use to transport controlled substances and the proceeds from the sale of controlled substances. Those techniques might be used to hide their identity, conceal the proceeds of their drug trafficking activities, or conceal the location of their residences, businesses, and stash houses from law enforcement officers.

The methods used by persons trafficking in controlled substances operations in an attempt to lower the risk of identification and detection by law enforcement officers might include the following:

  1. Individuals involved in the trafficking of controlled substances and using parcels to conceal controlled substances and proceeds of their trafficking activity often pay cash for the shipping of the parcel, and to avoid detection of their identity will limit the contact information or provide false contact information on the labels.
  2. Individuals involved in the trafficking of controlled substances will choose locations for parcel deliveries where they know no one will be present to accept delivery.
  3. Traffickers know private parcel companies will leave the parcel at the front of the residence.
  4. Traffickers or their associates will then pick up the parcel after it has been delivered and will take it to another location where the trafficker operates his or her illegal activities.
  5. Co-conspirators will accept the parcels, on behalf of the main controlled substance trafficker, often for money or controlled substances.
  6. After the co-conspirator receives the parcel, (s)he will contact the trafficker, who will make arrangements to get the parcel.
  7. This is done to lower the risk of the main trafficker being caught or identified by law enforcement officers.
  8. Parcels containing controlled substances or the proceeds of controlled substances trafficking are often delivered to a location other than the trafficker’s residence, such as a vacant house, unknown residence, co-conspirator’s residence, relative’s friend’s residence, or business.
  9. The business names and locations on the parcel are often false business names and locations to help hide the traffickers’ true identity from law enforcement officers.
  10. The names on the parcel including the sender’s name and the recipient’s name are often false names to help hide the traffickers’ true identity from law enforcement officers.
  11. Parcels containing controlled substances or proceeds of controlled substance trafficking activity will commonly be disguised to look like normal parcels, will be packaged to blend in with other parcels, and will commonly have the controlled substance or proceeds packaged in a manner to avoid detection by a canine trained to detect the odor of controlled substances.
  12. For example, traffickers will often seal the parcel with excessive tape to prevent the odor of controlled substances from leaking from the parcel.
  13. Inside of the parcel, or attached to the controlled substances, traffickers will commonly include air fresheners, dryer sheets, axle grease, or other items to prevent detection by a canine trained to detect the odor of controlled substances.
  14. Parcels containing controlled substances or proceeds of controlled substance trafficking activity are often sent express or overnight delivery. Many traffickers and their associates will not accept parcels after a certain time, as they know commercial parcel companies guarantee their parcels will be delivered by a certain time. Traffickers will be hesitant to accept a parcel that is late, suspecting law enforcement involvement.
  15. Individuals involved in the trafficking of controlled substances may attempt to conceal any records of financial transactions of the illegal enterprise through the extensive use of paper currency and through the use of money orders, prepaid gift cards, debit cards, and credit cards, and by placing assets in false names or in the names of relatives, friends, and associates.
  16. Individuals involved in the trafficking of controlled substances may use false names, “street names,’’ false identifying information, and fictitious business names to attempt to hide their true identity.
  17. Individuals involved in the trafficking of controlled substances may convert currency proceeds of trafficking activity into money orders, prepaid debit cards, prepaid credit cards, or gift cards.
  18. Individuals involved in the trafficking of controlled substances generally conduct controlled substances transactions using United States currency.

Additional Resources

Crimes for Mailing Drugs through the Mail – What happens when USPS finds drugs or cash? Learn why the authorities believe the U.S. postal service is being used to facilitate drug dealing when people mail drugs and money back and forth.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Read an article explaining the rules that govern how the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seizes nonmailable items including drugs, currency (cash or money), firearms, or other items.


This article was last updated on Friday, February 5, 2021.

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