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CBP Currency Seizures in Florida

The Department of Homeland Security had three components with seizure and forfeiture authority including:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and
  • United States Secret Service (Secret Service).

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

Once agents with ICE, HSI, or CBP, seize property, the property is transferred to CBP for processing. CBP then sends out notices of forfeiture, manages administrative petitions, and verified claims for judicial procedures, storing assets, and final disposition.

CBP processed approximately 91.1 percent of the Department of Homeland Security’s total forfeiture cases by seizing component for FYs 2014 through 2018. The amount of property seized can be confirmed by looking at the government’s massive database called the “Seized Asset and Case Tracking System” or “SEACATS.”

In the State of Florida, the bulk of the property seized by CBP was U.S. Currency seized at mass transit centers such as airports, bus stations, train stations, and on the roadways.

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, at Sammis Law Firm.

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. We know that federal law provides only one way to challenge the legality of the taking – by demanding “court action” through judicial referral.

We help clients file a verified claim 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. Hire an experienced attorney to show why the initial detention was illegal from the inception.

Call 813-250-0500.


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

If CBP sends you a notice of seizure, you should respond appropriately. 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.


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; and
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, TX.

The most commonly seized asset is cash or currency, but all different types of property can be seized including vehicles, vessels, aircraft, gold (and other precious metals), firearms, weapons, and ammunition.


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.”


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 may 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 with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection do not follow the rule, it might give the claimant’s attorney the best chances of getting the property returned quickly, sometimes with the agency being forced to 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.


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.

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 has no control over the NFC, as a separate federal entity.

At the present moment, it is averaging NFC weeks for payments. Once you confirm with the Paralegal Specialist at CBP’s Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Office, whether you want the fund via direct deposit or check, it is able to inform the NFC accordingly so that it can begin processing the payment.


Additional Resources

Property Seized by Agents with the U.S. Customs and Board Protection (CBP) – Visit the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to learn more from the CBP Information Center about Securing America’s Borders. Learn more about 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. The FP&F Officer then sends any interested parties a notice of seizure.

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.


This article was last updated on Thursday, October 15, 2020.

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