Help! Homeland Security Stole My Cash at the Airport



What happens if you bring cash to the airport for a domestic flight? As you go through the security checkpoint on the way to board your flight and the cash is discovered, agents with the Department of Homeland Security might seize the U.S. Currency.

If they walk a drug K9 dog around the cash and the dog alerts (which it completely within their control), then they can allege that you are a drug dealer and the money must have come from illegal dealings in drugs.

The federal agents and local police officers with the Tampa International Airport (TIAPD) might allege that you made inconsistent statements about where the money came from and that you appeared to be nervous or acted suspiciously.

The agents will then take you to a small room (away from the video surveillance cameras) and count your money. The agents will then issue you a “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence” from the Department of Homeland Security. The form is known as the DHS Form 6051S which was last revised in August of 2009.

After you receive the custody receipt for seized property from the agent with the Department of Homeland Security, you will be sent on your way. You have probably missed your flight by now.

Although international travelers with negotiable monetary instruments valued at $10,000 or more in their possession must complete a form FinCEN 105, Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments, no such obligation exist for bringing currency from one state to another.

In 2014, CBP seized more than $81,496,161 in undeclared or illicit currency. In many of those cases, the taking goes uncontested. If the taking of money or other property was improper under federal law then you should immediately contact an experienced attorney to demand an "early judicial hearing" in federal court to fight for the quick return of your property.

Update on Recent Case Result:

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm recently had a case in which Mary Ann Cranford, with the title "Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Officer" at the U.S. Customs and Board Protection Office in Tampa, sent us a letter dated April 6, 2016, indicating that she had received our verified claim demanding the immediate return of funds taken by Agent Carlos Carrasquillo at the Tampa International Airport.

She said in the letter that she was recently 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.

It is our experience that it is usually far better to file a verified claim demanding that CBP refer the case for COURT ACTION instead of waiving your important rights by either submitting a petition for an administrative decision, an offer in compromise, or simply abandoning the property.   

Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence

The Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence (DHS Form 6051S (08/09) can be found in Handbook 5200-09. It requires the incident number, the investigating case number, the enforce number, whether any prior detentions had occurred, the date of this seizure, the time of the seizure, the name and address of the person from whom the property was seized and additional remarks.

The agent will then list the property taken. Later, the agent will document the acceptance of the property by another person so that the chain of custody can be documented.

If you didn't receive a receipt or the amount listed on the receipt is less than what was actually seized, you should be worried. It is your word against the agent's word, and it is all to easy for a federal agent to pocket seized cash with little chance of getting in trouble.

If the agents seize the currency they will usually allege that it is subject to forfeiture under the provisions of Title 18, United States Code, section 981(a)(1)(C). Under this provision, the agents will alleged that the currency is proceeds of the manufacture, sale or distribution of a controlled substance which is identified as “specified unlawful activity” under Title 18, United States Code, section 1956(c)(7).

If you do nothing you may wait up to 90 days for further correspondence which is the notice of seizure letter that outlining your rights to contest the seizure. To speed up the process, if you hire the attorney, the attorney might decide to immediately write a letter to the agent demanding an EARLY JUDICIAL HEARING.

That letter written by your attorney to the agent and local U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) office will then trigger the CBP, acting on behalf of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to send you a letter acknowledging that you have an interest in the seized property.

The letter will be sent by a “Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture Officer.” For seizures at the Tampa International Airport, the correspondence will usually be addressed to the U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection, Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures, 1624 E. 7th Avenue, Suite 101, Tampa, Florida 33605. The phone number the Tampa Offices of U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection is 813-712-6012.

The purpose of the letter is to advise you of the options available to you concerning this seizure. CBP will also send the following documents:
  1. an “Election of Proceedings” form (also called the CAFRA form); and
  2. a “Seized Asset Claim” form (also called the CAFRA Seized Asset Claim Form.
The letter instructs you to make certain choices on the “election of proceedings” form and return it, and any other necessary documents, to CBP within the allotted time frame.

Be advised that any false statement or claim may subject a person to prosecution under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 and/or 18 U.S.C. Section 1621, and may be punishable by a fine and imprisonment. Typically fighting for the return of property is not a good "do it yourself project." Seek out the services of an experienced attorney for forfeiture cases in Tampa, FL, so that you do not make a mistake before you decide on a course of action.

REQUESTING COURT ACTION and a JURY TRIAL


Talk to an experienced attorney who might recommend that your best option is to elect for COURT ACTION which can include a JURY TRIAL if properly requested. In many cases, this is the fastest way to have the issue resolved. If you elect one of the other options, you can expect delays that last more than a year.

The only downside to demanding judicial action is that you MIGHT have to appear in a courtroom in front of a judge at the Federal District Court. If the U.S. Attorney's Office chooses not to file a forfeiture action then the property will be returned to you within a matter of weeks.

Only if the U.S. Attorney's Office decides to file a forfeiture action would you be required to go to court, exchange written discovery or have your deposition taken. A prosecutor with the United States Attorney's Office can then ask you questions about your finances and the circumstances surrounding the possession of the currency. Both side often want to avoid hearings and preparing for trial and as a result pre-trial settlements can occur quickly.

Note that your attorney doesn’t have to wait for the letter called the “Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants CAFRA Form” to request court action.

The attorney can make that election immediately after the seizure by sending the letter demanding court action. In some cases, the attorney will send the letter the next day after the seizure occurred. The letter should also include your attestation and oath that you have an interest the property claimed because you own the property and are requesting that the Government initiate a judicial action to forfeit the seized property.

A claim can also be submitted by any innocent third party with an innocent owner defense.

You will be instructed that you must elect court action within 30 days by requesting referral of this matter to the U.S. Attorney, who will have the authority to simply return the property to you without any further delay.

The U.S. Attorney might decide to file a forfeiture action against the property in federal court pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(3). If you choose this action, your attorney will check Box 4 on the “election of Proceedings” form. Your attorney will also complete the enclosed “Seized Asset Claim” form or otherwise submit a complete judicial claim as required by 18 U.S..C. Section 983(a)(2)(C).

Option 4 provides:

I AM FILING A CLAIM AND REQUESTING THAT CBP REFER THE CASE FOR COURT ACTION. Please send the case to the U.S. Attorney for court action. I have fully completed, signed, and attached a “Seized Asset Claim” form.
I understand that if I have not fully completed this form, or otherwise made a proper claim and request for judicial forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(2)(C) within 35 days after the date the notice of seizure was mailed, CBP will treat any submission as a petition for relief without the ability to seek future judicial forfeiture proceedings.

OTHER LESS DESIRABLE OPTIONS

1. Take No Action and Do Nothing: 

If you choose to do nothing, the CBP will initiate forfeiture action. The first notice will be posted on or about 35 days from the date of this letter.

For property appraised in excess of $5,000, CBP will post notice of seizure and intent to forfeit on the internet at www.forfeiture.gov for 30 consecutive days.

For property apprised at $5,000 of less, CBP will post a notice of seizure and intent to forfeit in a conspicuous place accessible to the public at the customhouse or Board Patrol sector office (where appropriate) nearest the place of seizure as well as on the internet at www.forfeiture.gov for 30 consecutive days.

2. Abandon the Property

Abandon any claim or interest you may have in the property. If you elect this option in the “Election of Proceedings - CAFRA Form” then no additional notice about further proceeds concerning the property will be provided to you.

3. File a Petition - Will Delay and Prolong the Resolution

 You can file a petition with the CBP office within 30 days from the date of this letter in accordance with Title 19, United States Code (USC) Section 1618 and Title 19, Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Section 171.1 and 171.2 (19 C.F.R. Section 171.1, 171.2), seeking the remission of the forfeiture.

The petition does not need to be in any specific form, but it must describe the property involved, identify the date and place of the seizure, include all the facts and circumstances which you believe warrant relief from forfeiture and must include proof of your interest in or claim to the property.

Examples of proof of interest include, but are not limited to, a car title, loan agreement, or documentation of the source of funds. If you choose this option you must check Box 1 on the “Election of Proceedings” form.

By completing Box 1 on the “election of Proceedings” form, you are requesting administrative processing. You are requesting that CBP refrain from beginning forfeiture proceedings while your petition is pending or that CBP halt forfeiture proceedings if they have already commenced.

If you choose to file an administrative petition and you are dissatisfied with the petition decision (initial petition or supplemental petition), you will have an additional 60 days from the date of the initial petition decision, or 60 days from the date of the supplemental petition decision, or such other time as specified by the Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture Office to file a claim to the property requesting a referral to the U.S. Attorney.

If you do not act within these time frames, the property may be administratively forfeited to the United States. You may also request a referral to the U.S. Attorney at any point prior to the issuance of a petition decision by filing a claim.

Please see section 4 of this letter for information on how to request judicial action. If you take such action after filing a petition for relief, your pending petition will be withdrawn from consideration.

If you request a referral to the U.S. Attorney or if another person asserting an interest in the same property chooses a referral to the U.S. Attorney, the matter will be referred to the U.S. Attorney wo will have the authority to file a forfeiture action against the property in federal court pursuant to Title 18, U.S.C., Section 983(a)(3)(19 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(3)).

If upon receipt of your petition, the matter has already been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the institution of judicial forfeiture proceedings, your petition will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for consideration.

4. Offer in Compromise which will Delay and Prolong a Resolution

 At any time prior to forfeiture, you ma file an offer in compromise in accordance with `9 U.S.C. Section 1617 and 19 C.F.R. Section 161.5, 171.31. The offer must specifically state that you are making it under the provisions of 19 U.S.C. Section 1617.

If you are offering money in settlement of the case, you must include payment (bank draft, cashier’s check or certified check, drawn on a U.S. financial institution, and made payable to CBP) in the amount of your offer. CBP may only consider the amount of your offer and will return the full offer if it is rejected. This option may serve to delay the case. If you choose this option, you must check Box 2 on the “Election of Proceedings” form.

If you choose to submit an offer in compromise and are dissatisfied with the offer decision, you will have an additional 30 days from the date of the offer decision to file a claim requesting a referral for judicial action. If you do not act within the additional 30 days, the property may be forfeited to the United States.

You may also request a referral for judicial action at any point prior to the issuance of the offer decision by fully completing the enclosed “Seized Asset Claim” form or by otherwise submitting a complete judicial claim consistent with the requirements under 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(2)(C). If you take such action, your petition or offer will be considered to have been withdrawn.

If, upon receipt of your offer, the matter has already been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the institution of judicial forfeiture proceedings, your offer will be forwarded to the United States Attorney’s Office for consideration as an offer in settlement of the judicial action, as appropriate.  

Be advised that any false statement or claim may subject a person to prosecution under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 and/or 18 U.S.C. Section 1621, and may be punishable by a fine and imprisonment. 

Additional Resources:


U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection - The CBP is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security that manages, controls and protects the nation's borders and official ports of entry.
 
      U.S. Customs and Boarder Protections 
      Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures
      1624 E. 7th Avenue, Suite 101
      Tampa, Florida 33605
      Phone Number: 813-712-6012

Tampa International Airport Police Department - Visit the website of the Tampa International Airport Police Department to learn more about this nationally accredited law enforcement agency with 44 support personnel, 63 traffic specialists and 66 sworn police officers. Sections of the TIAPD include the Airport Operations Center, Administration, Traffic, Bike Detail, Crime Prevention, Criminal Investigations, K9 and Patrol. In addition to providing traditional law enforcement services, the TIAP also enforces federal regulations associated with transportation security.

      Tampa International Airport Police Department
      4160 George J. Bean Parkway
      Tampa, Florida 33607
      Phone Number: 813-870-8700

CBP Makes Cash Seizures - Visit the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to read an article dated November 12, 2015 about the risk to international travelers if they do not properly report currency. The article discusses how CBP working at one field office seized nearly $50,000 of unreported currency in just the past week. The article explains why U.S. law requires international travelers to properly report currency in their possession whether traveling into or departing from the United States. Read more about the requirements for international travelers with negotiable monetary instruments valued $10,000 or more to complete a form FinCEN 105, Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments. 

Conclusion


If a federal agent with Homeland Security or the Bureau of Customs and Boarder Protection took your cash, vehicle, or other property, and then alleged that the property was involved in unlawful activity, then contact an experienced attorney to fight the forfeiture action. 

Whether the taking took place at your home, work, the roadside or the airport, we can help you fight the forfeiture action with the goal of obtaining the immediate release of the money to you.

We also represent clients who are arrested for any other reason after being accused of committing a crime at Tampa International Airport, including carrying a concealed weapon or firearm, possession offenses, and driving under the influence on the airport property. We represent clients after an arrest by the Tampa International Airport Police Department (TIAPD) and other law enforcement agencies at the airport.

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