Seizure of Money Orders
What happens when federal agents with U.S. Customs and Board Protection (CBP), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), stop you at the airport and seizure money orders from your luggage or carry-on bag?
Seizures of money orders might also occur during the execution of a search warrant, or during an investigative stop on the highway, or at a bus or train station.
If the law enforcement officer legally gains probable cause that the money orders represent the proceeds of drug trafficking or money laundering or are intended for that purpose, then the law enforcement officer can seize the money orders and trigger civil asset forfeiture proceedings.
The government will often allege that high-value blank money orders are commonly used in narcotics trafficking, as they are easier to physically conceal than carrying large wads of cash.
Attorney for Money Seizure in Tampa, FL
If your money orders was taken by federal agents at the airport or another location, then you need an attorney in Tampa, FL, experienced in civil asset forfeiture cases. We can help you get the seized money back quickly.
You don’t have to wait for the notice of seizure letter which can take up to 60 days to arrive in the mail. Instead, your attorney can help you file a claim for early judicial intervention or court action to speed up the process.
Filing a verified claim means the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) has 90 days to either return the money orders or file a complaint for forfeiture in the U.S. District Court.
An experienced attorney can increase the odds that all of the money orders will be returned by preserving any surveillance video and showing why the seizure violated the law.
Crimes for Money Order Forms Issued by the Postal Service
Pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 5325(a) and 31 C.F.R. § 1010.415, any financial institution, which is defined to include the United States Postal Service and other issuers of money orders, that issues money orders in excess of $3,000 must obtain certain identifying information from the purchaser and record such information.
Such transactions involving money orders issued by the United States Postal Service, are subject to reporting to the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury upon request of the Secretary. 31 U.S.C. § 5325(b).
After the money orders are seized for forfeiture, the government will determine where and when they were purchased. The money orders have sequential numbers, then it shows they were purchased in sets.
Sometimes, a person will purchase money orders from different clerks at the same U.S. Post Office on the same day, thereby allowing the purchaser to avoid triggering the identification requirement for purchases of money orders exceeding $3,000, as set forth in 31 U.S.C. § 5325(a); 31 C.F.R. § 1010.415.
Under that regulation, the U.S. Postal Service requires that any customer whose daily total of purchased money orders is $3,000 or more, regardless of the number of visits the customer makes to one or more postal facilities, must complete PS Form 8105-A, Funds Transaction Report (FTR), and
show an acceptable primary form of identification. See Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual, 3.2.2 Purchase Restrictions.
The government investigates cases in which they believe an individual is involved in illegal activities, such as narcotics trafficking, tax evasion or money launder, and knowingly attempts to avoid the reporting requirements by actively taking steps to cause financial institutions to:
- fail to file currency transaction reports (CTRs); or
- fail to require identifying information when issuing money orders.
These active steps to avoid the $3,000 requirement to provide identification when purchasing money orders is referred to as “structuring.”
Structuring is prohibited by 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a).
Crimes for Possession of Money Order Forms
Under 18 U.S.C. § 500, the receipt or possession of a money order form, issued by or under the direction of the Post Office Department or Postal Service, with the intent to convert it to his own use or gain of another knowing it to be have been embezzled, stolen or converted, is subject to criminal penalties.
Those criminal penalties for crimes involving money order forms issued at the post office include fines, imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both.
If federal agents took your money at the airport, then contact an experienced money seizure attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL. We can help you get the seized money back by contesting the administrative forfeiture.
This article was last updated on Friday, September 27, 2019.