Forfeiture Case Results
We represent clients in airport cash seizure cases in Florida and across the county. When someone calls our office for a consultation, they often ask – “What kinds of airport cash seizure cases have you taken in the past and what was the outcome in those cases?”
We created this list of case results to answer that question. If you would like to view the case results in civil asset forfeiture cases listed below you should read the following disclaimer:
- The Florida Bar does not approve or routinely review case results posted by attorneys.
- The facts and circumstances of your case may differ from the facts and circumstances discussed here.
- Not all case results are listed here or provided.
- The case results discussed here are not necessarily representative of the results obtained in all cases.
- Each case is different and must be evaluated and handled on its own merit.
$16,563 Seized by Homeland Security and then Returned $16,563
On November 27, 2019, before boarding an international flight out of the Tampa International Airport, an agent with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized $16,563.00 from our client because the unreported currency was not listed on a FinCEN Form 105.
Although most of these types of seizures go unchallenged, our client found us by searching from his cell phone and contacted the firm while he was still at the airport after the seizure. We immediately preserved the airport surveillance video and filed a verified claim for court action to bypass any administrative proceeding.
On February 28, 2020, we received a letter from Robert M. Del Toro, the Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Officer for the U.S. Customs and Border Protections (CBP) in Tampa, FL. The letter indicated that CBP received all of our correspondence regarding the seizure of $16,563.00 in U.S. Currency, including the demand for court action.
The letter indicated that “[a]fter a full review of the matter, it has been determined that the seized currency will be returned. Therefore, we have initiated a full refund which will be paid through the National Finance Center… You may expect this payment in approximately 2-3 weeks from the date of this letter.”
Most airports do not post adequate signs or make announcements about the currency reporting requirement for travelers departing the United States on an international flight. Even if the traveler somehow knew about the requirement, being able to comply would be onerous. As a result, seizures of unreported U.S. Currency not listed on the FinCEN Form 105 are common.
$159,950 Plus Interest Returned by Homeland Security
On September 20, 2019, $181,500.00 in U.S. Currency was seized at the Tampa International Airport before a domestic flight. A federal agent wrote a receipt to our client that said: “MONEY CONTAINED IN 2 BAGS. ESTIMATED VALUE IS 181,500.00.” However, only $159,950 was deposited into the bank after the seizure.
On September 26, 2019, we sent a claim via Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested to Fines, Penalties, & Forfeitures Officer, with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Tampa, FL., for the $181,500.00 in U.S. Currency.
Without acknowledging the claim, on October 9, 2019, Robert Del Toro, Fines, Penalties, & Forfeitures Officer with CBP send a notice of seizure claiming that only $159,950 has been seized. We filed a verified second claim for the funds listed in the “notice of seizure.”
After not reaching a resolution with the Assistant United States Attorney for the timely return of the funds, we file a lawsuit against CBP in federal court on January 31, 2020. We agree to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit against CBP after it returned $159,950 and agreed to return an additional amount for interest in a second check.
Homeland Security Seizes $63,490.00 and Returned the Entire Amount After Filing a Complaint
In September of 2019, our client was detained at the Orlando International Airport (OIA). After finding $63,490 in U.S. currency in a checked bag, federal agents with the Department of Homeland Security seized the bag without a warrant. The agents then located our client who was boarding the domestic flight.
After being removed from the flight and enduring a prolonged detention, the client signed a “notice of abandonment and assent to forfeiture of prohibited or seized merchandise” form 4607 which was witnesses by a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
On October 11, 2019, we filed a claim for early judicial intervention or court action. The AUSA assigned to the case didn’t file the complaint until January 15, 2019. The verified complaint for forfeiture in rem alleged that the law enforcement officers seized the currency because there was probable cause to believe that the Defendant Funds constituted:
- Money furnished or intended to be furnished by a person in exchange for a controlled substance in violation of the Controlled Substances Act;
- Proceeds traceable to such an exchange; or
- Money used or intended to be used to facilitate a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
After showing the AUSA our basis for having the case dismissed, the AUSA filed for Voluntary Dismissal which was granted on February 5, 2020. We received a check for the entire $63,490.00 on February 24, 2020 which was approximately 5 months after the seizure of cash from the Orlando International Airport.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agrees to Return $45,001 after Airport Seizure of $45,001
On September 8, 2019, federal agents with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seized $45,001.00 in U.S. currency from our client’s luggage. We were contacted by a local attorney who took the case initially but wanted to be co-counsel with our law firm on the case.
The client signed an agreement to retain our firm under those terms. After completing our preliminary investigation, talking with the agent that seized the money, and preserving video surveillance of the incident, we filed a verified claim on September 30, 2019.
Our first verified claim letter demanded early judicial intervention (also called “court action”). We also provided additional information about the legality of the seizure and demanded that the case be forwarded to the United States Attorney’s Office to avoid any further delay.
Our first verified claim triggered the Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture Officer with the U.S. Customs and Board Protection to send the Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants CAFRA Form, the Election of Proceedings CAFRA Form, and the Seized Asset Claim Form to us on October 4, 2019.
In response to those documents, we send a second demand for early judicial intervention (“court action”) on October 31, 2019.
Within 90 days of our first verified claim letter, we received a certified letter from the FP&F Officer. The letter explained: “The determination has been made that $45,001.00 will be remitted.” The check for $45,001.00 arrived on February 7, 2020.
DEA Seizes $52,620 and Agrees to a Full Refund 6 Months Later
On October 30, 2018, DEA seized $52,620.00 at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Broward County, FL, from our client. We immediately filed a claim to contest the forfeiture in the United States District Court pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 983, et. seq, 19 U.S.C. Sections 1602-1619, Title 21 CFR Sections 1316.71-1316.81.
On February 6, 2019, we receive a letter from the DEA’s Office of Operations Management of the Asset Forfeiture Section acknowledging that it received the submission of the claim. The claim was accepted and the matter was referred to the United States Attorney for the Civil Division in the Southern District of Florida.
After sending various financial documents to the AUSA assigned to the case, we were able to show a legitimate source of the funds. We also provided information about technical and procedural problems that impacted the AUSA being able to file a complaint.
On April 22, 2019, we received a letter informing us of the “decision to return” the entire $52,620.
CBP Returns $30,000 after $30,000 in U.S. Currency Seized at Tampa International Airport
On December 12, 2018, agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized $30,000 in cash at the Tampa International Airport from our client without providing a receipt. A few days later we requested a receipt showing that $30,000 had been taken.
The authorities confirmed that an undetermined amount of currency was seized but claimed it had not yet been counted. Eventually we were provided with a receipt from CBP which correctly listed the total of $30,000 in U.S. Currency being seized.
Shortly after the seizure, we preserved the airport surveillance video of the agents who conducted the initial interrogation, search, and seizure. Because part of the detention of the seized cash occurred at the Tampa International Airport Police Department (TIAPD), we also preserved the surveillance video of that part of the detention.
On January 1, 2019, we created an election of proceedings form and verified CAFRA seized asset claim to trigger the case be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for early judicial action.
We received a letter dated March 16, 2019, from the Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection which indicated that “[a]fter a full review of this matter, our office determined that the currency will be returned to your client. Therefore, $30,000 in U.S. currency will be returned to [your client] within three to four weeks.”
We agreed to complete a CAFRA Hold Harmless Release Agreement in consideration for the return of all of the property. The form required our client to forever release the United States from any claim in connection with the detention, seizure, and/or release by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the above-listed property.
The agreement also required our client to waive any claim to attorney’s fees, interest or any other relief not specifically provided for in the agreement. We finally received the check for $30,000 on April 19, 2019.
$30,000.00 Seized by DEA at the Airport and $29,375.89 Refunded
On April 14, 2018, several DEA agents seized $30,000 in cash from our client. Immediately after the seizure, the DEA issued our client a “receipt for cash or other items” which listed an “undetermined amount of US Currency.” The DEA agents then sealed the cash in a bag and took it to the bank to be deposited.
On June 7, 2018, the DEA send our client a “notice of seizure of property and initiation of administrative forfeiture proceedings” which described the property as $29,000 in U.S. Currency. $1,000 went missing.
On July 11, 2018, we send via “federal express priority overnight” a claim to contest the forfeiture of the property in U.S. District Court (a request for immediate judicial action). Our claim forced the DEA to stop the administrative forfeiture proceeding and forward the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for further proceedings.
Because of several problems that we pointed out, the U.S. Attorney’s Office refused to take any action in the case. Shortly thereafter, we received a letter dated November 15, 2018, from the Senior Attorney with the Asset Forfeiture Section of the DEA informing us of the decision “to return” the $29,000. We competed the UFMS Vendor Request Form as requested.
On December 20, 2018, we received the check for $29,375.89.
DEA seized $13,260 Cash at the Orlando International Airport and $13,260 Returned
On June 13, 2018, DEA seized $13,260 from our client at the Orlando International Airport. That same amount was deposited into the bank by the DEA agents. After we were retained in the case, we submitted a packet of information including a verified claim for judicial court action before the deadline on August 28, 2018.
On September 20, 2018, Merri L. Hankins, Senior Attorney for the DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Section wrote us a letter informing us of the decision to return the $13,260 in U.S. Currency.
$13,227 Seized by ICE HSI and $11,892 Returned
U.S. Currency was seized from our client at the Tampa International Airport. The receipt provided to the client by Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Special Agent (“SA”) Carlos Carrasquillo indicated that “$13,227” had been seized and the currency was counted in the client’s presence before the receipt was written. Nevertheless, only $11,892 was actually deposited into the bank by ICE HSI agents.
We immediately filed a verified demand for early judicial court action and complained about the missing money. Shortly thereafter, we received a letter from Mary Ann Cranford, with the title “Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Officer” at the U.S. Customs and Board Protection Office in Tampa dated April 6, 2016.
The letter indicated that Mary Ann Cranford had received our verified claim demanding the immediate return of funds taken by Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Special Agent (“SA”) Carlos Carrasquillo at the Tampa International Airport.
The letter advised that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has chosen not to file a forfeiture action in Court. The letter stated: “Accordingly, this office will submit a request to the National Finance Center to issue a refund in the amount of $11,892” which was the total amount presented to the CBP office after the seizure.
This article was last updated on Friday, July 2, 2020.