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Seizure of Unlawfully Imported Merchandise

With importing merchandise, a seizing inspector, while conducting a thorough examination, might determine that the visas included in the entry packet were counterfeit. Other problems might include merchandise being marked “Made in the U.S.A.” although the entry documents indicated that they were made overseas.

The property is often held by the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”). If U.S. Customs finds a violation, it might place the merchandise on hold for “intensive examination.” The shipment might then be seized under 19 U.S.C. 1595a(c)(3).

The merchandise subject to seizure might include goods that aid or facilitate the illegal importation of merchandise, undeclared, unreported or smuggled merchandise or the non-reporting of currency over 10,000, restricted merchandise because of CPSC, FDA, or Quota, or prohibited merchandise that qualified as counterfeit or a controlled substance.

Attorney for Seizure of Imported / Exported Merchandise in Florida

An attorney can help you draft a Petition to U.S. Customs. The petition must be filed within 30 days of the date of Seizure Notice. The petition contains the factual and legal arguments establishing that the merchandise entered or exported consistent with U.S. law.

The petition helps you get your merchandise back and get the penalties waived or mitigated. A full remission might be obtained. In other cases, the remission might be contingent on the completion of certain conditions of release set forth by the U.S. Customs Service, Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures office.

We are familiar with the standard operating procedures for Special Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Homeland Security. In many of these cases, the agents don’t follow their own rules which can lead to a fast return of the property.

If your property was seized by federal agents in central Florida, then contact a civil asset forfeiture attorney in Tampa, FL, at Sammis Law Firm to help you make all of the appropriate claims to get the property back. Your attorney can help you cooperation with Customs (or agency officials) in ascertaining the facts establishing the violation, while still protecting your rights.

Call 813-250-0500.

Mitigating and Aggravating Factors for Importing Violations

The way the case is resolved might depend on various mitigating and aggravating factors. Mitigating factors might include any prior good record, inexperience in importing, and cooperation with Customs (or agency officials) in ascertaining the facts establishing the violation.

Aggravating factors include any criminal conviction relating to the subject transaction, repetitive violations of the same import restriction involved in the seizure (even for violations for which no seizures had been made), and evidence of intentional importation contrary to law.

Showing Special Circumstances for the Importing Violation

If your property was seized, an attorney might be able to help you get all of the merchandise back when special circumstances can be found. The disposition of imported merchandise seized under section 1595a(c) might be impacted by a variety of factors.

Those factors include a showing that the sole cause of the introduction was a mistake of fact or clerical error as defined under 19 C.F.R. 162.71(c), (d)). If the attempted introduction contrary to law results from either mistake of fact or clerical error, then the U.S. Custom Services office of Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures office should remit the seizure in full.

Additionally, your attorney might be able to show extenuating circumstances that would lead to remission being granted in full when justified by the equities relating to the violation for which seizure was made. In other words, your attorney might be able to show that “extenuating circumstances” justify granting remission in full.

Notice of Seizure of Imported Merchandise Violations

Form 22-7, ENF 4-04 NF, operates as a “Notice of Seizure.” The Paralegal Specialist at FP&F issues the Seizure Notice. The form provides:

Dear _________:

The record of the U,.S. Custom Services Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures, indicate that you might have an interest in certain merchandise seized by U. S. Customs in Florida on ________.

The merchandise was seized under the provisions of title 19, United States Code, section 1595a(c), because it was introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law. 19 U.S. Code § 1595 concerns aiding unlawful importation.

The appraised domestic value of the merchandise is ____________

Under the provisions of title 19, United States Code, section 1618, you may petition for relief from the above liability.

The enclosed notice of seizure and information for claimants explains your options with regard to the remission of the forfeiture seized property.

If you do wish to petition for relief from the forfeiture, you must provide an express agreement to defer judicial or administrative forfeiture proceedings until completion of the administrative process.

Completion of the enclosed Election of Proceedings form will provide this express agreement.

All petitions should be filed, in triplicate, within the time specified in the notice to the address for the U.S. Customs Service, Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures, contained in the notice.

In some cases, the Supervisory Paralegal Specialist with the Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures Staff of the U.S. Customs Service might agree to Conditions For Early Release. That letter provides:

It has been determined that the merchandise described in this seizure will be released upon payment of __________. This amount for an early release will be accepted in cash, irrevocable letter of credit for a one year period, check or money order. Any outstanding liens must be satisfied and labor and storage charges must be paid.

19 U.S. Code § 1595 concerns aiding unlawful importation.

Subsection (c) of Section 1595a provides:

(c) Merchandise introduced contrary to law – Merchandise which is introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law shall be treated as follows:
(1) The merchandise shall be seized and forfeited if it—
(A) is stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported or introduced;
(B) is a controlled substance, as defined in the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), and is not imported in accordance with applicable law;
(C) is a contraband article, as defined in section 80302 of title 49; or
(D) is a plastic explosive, as defined in section 841(q) of title 18, which does not contain a detection agent, as defined in section 841(p) of such title.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.

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