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CBP Currency Seizures in Florida

Since the inception of the Department of Homeland Security, CBP’s Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures Division has handled seizures by agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Seizures of cash at the airport by law enforcement officers with CBP or HSI are particularly common, especially in the state of Florida. Customs agents might seize money before an international flight or a domestic flight, especially if you are carrying more than $10,000 in cash.

Before or after an international flight, carrying more than $10,000 in cash must be disclosed on the FinCEN 105 form.

In addition to airports, seizures are common at mass transit centers such as airports, bus stations, train stations, and on the roadways in Florida.

How long does it take to get a seizure letter from customs? After the federal agent seizes the property, CBP has 60 days to send out a letter that acts as the “notice of seizure.” The notice of seizure letter also includes the CAFRA seized asset claim form that sets a 30-day deadline to file the verified claim.

Keep in mind that you are NOT required to wait on the letter from Customs before filing the verified claim for court action.

In addition to sending out the notice, CBP manages administrative petitions and verified claims for judicial procedures. Recent studies indicate that CBP processes more than 90% of the Department of Homeland Security’s total forfeiture cases through petitions for mitigation or remission.

The amount of property seized can be determined by looking at the government’s massive database called the “Seized Asset and Case Tracking System” or “SEACATS.”

Attorney for Seizures of Currency by CBP in Florida

The civil asset forfeiture attorneys in Tampa, FL, have represented clients in a variety of seizure cases. Most of these seizures were conducted with federal agents with CBP or HSI involving more than $10,000 in cash.

No matter the value of property seized, an attorney can help you fight to get the property back with interest.

If your property was seized by agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) or U.S. Customs and Board Protection (CBP), then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL.

Most U.S. Currency seizures by federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) occur at the airport. The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are experienced in helping travelers get their money or U.S. Currency back after a CBP seizure for forfeiture.

We understand why administrative procedures for remission or mitigation rarely works. Those who file a petition for relief through mitigation or remission often get no money back at all.

The only way to challenge the legality of the taking is to demand “court action” through judicial referral.

We help clients file a verified claim letter which starts the 90-day deadline for returning all of the money or filing a “complaint for forfeiture” in federal court. If federal agents illegally took your money at the airport, don’t let them keep it.

Instead of ignoring the customs seizure letter, hire an experienced attorney to show why the initial detention was illegal from the inception or why the forfeiture was not justified.

Call 813-250-0500.


Reasons Not to Ignore the Customs “Notice of Seizure” Letter from CBP

CBP uses various forms in a currency seizure case including:

  • CF Form 6051A: Continuation Sheet Custody Receipt for Detained or Seized Property (11/2001); and
  • DHS Form 4605: Currency/Monetary Instrument Seizure Inventory (corresponds with CF 6051S).

Immediately after the seizure, the agent issues a receipt for the seized property on a form known as “CF 6051S: Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence (11/2001)” which references DHS Handbook 5200-09. The agent might also issue a continuance sheet on CF Form 6051A.

Within 60 days of the seizure, CBP must send a personal letter that acts as the “notice of seizure.” The notice of seizure is also published online.

What happens if you ignore the letter from Customs and Border Protection? If you simply ignore the notice of seizure letter from CBP, then CBP will note that you made no effort to “clear” the property.

The seizure history record will then show a notation documenting the alleged violation and associate that alleged violation with the person listed on the receipt or the notice of seizure. That notation effectively leaves a “red flag” association with the person’s name and address. In fact, the letter provides:

“Take No Action: If you choose to do nothing, then CBP will initiate the forfeiture action” by publishing information from the “notice of seizure” online.

For all of these reasons, it is better not to ignore the CBP “notice of seizure” letter. In fact, you get your property back, you should retain an attorney to file a demand for court action.


Busiest Airports for U.S. Currency Seizures by CBP

For travelers preparing to board an international or domestic flight, U.S. Currency is seized by federal agents with HSI or CBP at the airport, including the busiest airports in the United States:

  • Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, GA;
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, CA;
  • O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago, IL;
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) in Dallas, TX;
  • Denver International Airport (DEN) in Denver, CO;
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York City, NY;
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, CA;
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, NV;
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in Seattle, WA;
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) in Charlotte, NC;
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO) in Orlando, FL;
  • Miami International Airport (MIA) in Miami, FL;
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) in Phoenix, AZ;
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in Newark, NJ;
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, TX; and
  • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) in Romulus, MI.

The most commonly seized asset is cash or currency, but all different types of property can be seized including vehicles, vessels, aircraft, firearms, weapons, and ammunition. Federal agencies even seize gold and other precious metals for forfeiture proceedings.

Read more about seizures for forfeiture of cash at the Denver International Airport (DEN).


Basis of a CBP Seizure Before a Domestic Flight

If the U.S. Currency is discovered before a domestic flight, or during a layover, then CBP might allege that the U.S. Currency was seized and is subject to forfeiture under the provisions of title 18, United States Code, section 981 for violations involve title 18, United States Code, section 1956 and 1952.

Those types of violations allege that the property was involved in transactions that involved the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction when the transaction involves the proceeds of drug sales and/or represents the proceeds of specified unlawful activity related to the smuggling of controlled substances into the United States, in that it facilitated the carrying on of the illicit transportation, sale, receipt, and/or possession of controlled substances and interstate trafficking.


Rules for Seizures by Federal Agents with CBP

According to the SEACATS Privacy Impact Assessment from 2017, “Once an arrest or seizure case is initiated, the initiating officer must submit the incident report in SEACATS to his or her supervisor within 24 hours of the arrest.”

According to ICE’s 2010 Homeland Security Investigations Handbook, agents are given advice on the best way to seize property. The handbook provides:

“As a general rule, if total liabilities and costs incurred in seizing a real property or business exceed the value of the property, the property should not be seized.”


Once CBP Agrees to Release the Property, How Long Does it Take to Get the Check?

If the AUSA chooses not to file a complaint for forfeiture within the 90 day deadline, then the agency will send your attorney a notification letter that provides:

“After review of the matter, the Government decided to release the property to your client.”

According to an attorney at the Office of Associate Chief Counsel for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CAFRA requires that the Government must promptly release seized property pursuant to regulations. 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(3)(B).

Pursuant to regulation, CBP FPF must promptly provide a notification letter regarding the release of the property to include options and procedures as required by 28 C.F.R. § 8.13(b). The notification letter gives you the option of receiving a refund through direct deposit by completing the ACH form or by receiving a refund paper check.

If CBP decides to return the property, then the Claimant must confirm with the Paralegal Specialist at CBP’s Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures Office, whether the fund should be returned via direct deposit or check. CBP then informs NFC accordingly so that it can begin processing the payment.

CAFRA does not provide that seized property be returned prior to or within the 90-day period. CBP does not handle the return of funds. The National Finance Center (NFC) handles such matters. CBP claims to have no control over the NFC, because it is a separate federal entity.

CBP claims that on average, it takes NFC several weeks for payments.


Detentions of Goods or Merchandise by CBP

Over the years, our attorneys have dealt with a wide variety of problems when CBP detains goods or merchandise. We help clients resolve any “Notice of Detention” on the best possible terms.

If an examination by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is related to trade compliance, the goods or merchandise might be inspected for the following types of concerns:

  • compliance with the regulatory requirements imposed by other federal agencies including:
    • the CBP (including seizures by agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI);
    • the ATF;
    • the IRS;
    • the DEA; or
    • the FBI.
  • intellectual property rights (IPR) issues or violations for marks or trademarks;
  • improper labeling of the goods;
  • improper markings of the goods;
  • improper origin claims;
  • the valuation or classification of the goods;
  • improper reporting on invoices for quantity or descriptions; or
  • safety issues.

If the issues impact the admissibility of the goods or merchandise, then the CBP might be required to detain and seize the goods or merchandise.

Within five days of arrival, goods might be “detained” by federal agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Within five days after the detention begins, the CBP must issue a formal “Notice of Detention.”

As a practical matter, this typically requires the “Notice of Detention by CBP” to be issued within a total of 10 days after arrival, excluding weekends and holidays. If the federal agents fail to follow the rules and act within the deadlines, the claimant’s attorney might be able to force the agency to return the property and pay interest and attorney fees.

The Notice of Detention issued by CBP must explain:

  • the specific reason why CBP detained the goods or merchandise;
  • the nature of any tests or inquiries to be conducted; and
  • the nature of any information that, if supplied to CBP, will speed up the disposition of the detention.

If the issues are not resolved, the detention might turn into a seizure case.  The issuance of a seizure notice is necessary to begin the legal process for the forfeiture of the importer’s goods or merchandise.

The importer then has the opportunity to make a claim for court action or judicial review which is the best way to get the goods back quickly. If the importer doesn’t act quickly, the goods or merchandise may be sent for auction or destruction.


Additional Resources

List of Property Seized by the U.S. Customs and Board Protection (CBP) – Find the official notifications listing property seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Find the status of seized property and how you can fight for its return. Find answers to questions about what to do if your property was seized or taken by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). After the seizure, the case is then referred to the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures (FP&F) office within three working days. Within 60 days of the seizure, CBP’s FP&F Officer must send any of the interested parties a personal letter containing the “notice of seizure.” CBP’s letter explains how to demand court action or petition for relief.

CBP’s Petition for Relief from Forfeiture on Form 4630 – Visit the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency to find a pdf version of Form 4630 for filing a petition for relief from forfeiture. By using CBP Form 4630 (06/09), you are permitting CBP to decide your request for the release of property in accordance with Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 274. The form requests CBP to consider a petition for relief from forfeiture administratively in order to obtain the release of property. In part I, you must list the seizure case number, the time, the date of the seizure, and the location where the property was taken. Part II requires you to provide “certified copies” of any documentary evidence that establishes your interest in the seized property including receipts, purchase contracts, and bills of sale. You must describe the property that was seized and explain your interest in that property. Form 4630 requires you to list the circumstances that justify relief from forfeiture along with proof of the claim.

How the CBP Official Notification is Posted – Search the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) legal notice published each week online on the centralized www.forfeiture.gov website for forfeiture actions across all federal agencies. The CBP is required to give the proper notice that the property listed on the notification was seized for federal forfeiture for violation of federal law. The public can find the rules, procedures, and laws that apply to the forfeiture process listed on the website or in 19 U.S.C. Sections 1602 – 1619, 18 U.S.C. Section 983, and 28 C.F.R. Parts 8 and 9. From the website, you can petition for relief or demand court action.


This article was last updated on Friday, January 22, 2021.

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