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What to Know About Bulk Cash Smuggling

July 2, 2014« back to blog homepage


When traveling abroad, it’s common sense to carry enough money for the trip. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) allows travelers to take or bring in or out of the country as much money as they wish. However, any amounts totaling more than $10,000 must be reported to the CBP. Failure to do so will bring your planned travel adventures to an abrupt halt and land you in some serious legal trouble.

In 2013, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested more than 500 people who were found guilty of bulk cash smuggling. More than $59 million in bulk currency or monetary instruments were seized.

What is Bulk Cash Smuggling?

Title 31 U.S.C. § 5332

  1. Intent to evade a currency reporting requirement;
  2. Knowing concealment of more than $10,000.00 (in currency or other monetary instruments);
  3. On a person, or in a conveyance, luggage or container; and
  4. Transport or transfer (or attempt to transport or transfer) from inside U.S. to outside U.S or vice versa.

Bulk cash smuggling is a common practice among individuals involved in drug trafficking or other organized criminal activities in attempt to evade reporting requirements and/or avoid being detected by law enforcement and financial regulators. Bulk cash smuggling is reporting offense under the Bank Secrecy Act.

Penalties and Punishment

Criminal: You could face up to five years in prison if you are caught.

Civil: CBP will seize all currency which is alleged to violate the Bulk Cash Smuggling statute.  In addition, U.S. Customs will seize all of your personal belongings, including your purse, luggage, clothing or anything Customs deems was used to commit the violation.

What to Do If Your Cash is Seized by Customs

First, stay calm and keep a cool head. Getting angry and screaming obscenities at the U.S. Customs agents is not going to get you your money and personal belonging back, and it could make a bad situation even worse.  Accordingly, behave in a diplomatic manner, your behavior may be used as a mitigating factor when contesting the seizure of currency.

Second, retain a qualified customs law attorney. If you are innocent, you will need to prove your case. You will need to be able to show that there was no intention on your part to smuggle or conceal cash or any other monetary instruments across the border for illegal purposes.

A Customs law attorney has knowledge about Customs law that you may not have, knowledge that will prove valuable in reclaiming back your seized money and personal belongings. Customs law agents can be intimidating in a situation where you are in a vulnerable and uncomfortable position of being accused of an international crime. A Customs law attorney will advocate in your best interests when challenging the Customs agents seizure, telling your side of the story and making sure your rights are protected.

If your currency has been seized by customs or by border patrol, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. at (800) 549-5099 to speak with a customs attorney about your situation.


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