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Bulk Cash Smuggling Seizure

bulk cash smuggling seizure

Customs bulk cash smuggling seizure occurs when cash that is hidden or concealed is brought into or out of the United States or if it was concealed to avoid filing a report of international transportation of currency or monetary instruments (FinCEN Form 105). Bulk cash smuggling is a reporting offense under the Bank Secrecy Act.

What Is Bulk Cash Smuggling?

If a person transports more than $10,000 in currency or other monetary instruments into or out of the United States, it must be reported to the Customs and Border Protection using the Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (FinCEN Form 105).

Bulk smuggling of cash can be done by hiding cash or its equivalent on your person (clothing or wallet), in luggage, a backpack, a vehicle, or any other “container,” whether worn or carried by the person transporting the cash or monetary instruments. 31 USC § 5332(a)(2).

If you failed to report the currency or monetary instrument as required, then the property can be seized and subject to a forfeiture action and you can be charged with a crime. The penalties for bulk cash smuggling under Title 31 U.S.C. § 5332 include imprisonment for a period of time up to 5 years.

If you knowingly failed to report the currency or monetary instrument as required, then the property can be seized and subject to a civil asset forfeiture action. You can also be charged with a crime for bulk cash smuggling under Title 31 U.S.C. § 5332. The crime comes with imprisonment in federal prison for a period of time up to 5 years.

These investigations are conducted by officers with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) targeting the misuse of Money Service Businesses (MSB) and emerging payment systems, professional money launderers, funnel accounts, trade-based money laundering, and bulk cash smuggling.

Bulk-cash Smuggling Statute in § 5332

The bulk-cash smuggling statute in Subpart (a)(1) of section 5332(a), punishes anyone who, “with the intent to evade a currency reporting requirement under section 5316, knowingly conceals more than $10,000 in currency or other monetary instruments on the person of such individual or in any conveyance, article of luggage, merchandise, or other container, and transports or transfers or attempts to transport or transfer such currency or monetary instruments from a place within the United States to a place outside of the United States ….”

The cross-referenced provision, 31 U.S.C. § 5316, generally requires that “a person or an agent or bailee of the person … file a report … when [he] knowingly … transports, is about to transport, or has transported, monetary instruments” over “$10,000 at one time … from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States….”

And subpart (a)(2) of the bulk-cash-smuggling statute makes clear that “concealment of currency on the person of any individual includes concealment in any article of clothing worn by the individual or in any luggage, backpack, or other container worn or carried by such individual.”

Section 5324(c), the currency-structuring statute, prohibits a person from “structur[ing] … any importation or exportation of monetary instruments” for the purpose of “evading” section 5316’s reporting requirements. Section 5324(c) covers those who “structure or assist in structuring, or attempt to structure or assist in structuring.”

The criminal defense attorney in these cases might also argue that the bulk-cash-smuggling convictions violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. United States v. Del Toro-Barboza, 673 F.3d 1136, 1148-49 (9th Cir. 2012).

Penalties for Smuggling Bulk Cash

The penalties for bulk cash smuggling under Title 31 U.S.C. § 5332 include:

Imprisonment for a period of time up to 5 years; and
Forfeiture of any property, real or personal, involved in the offense, and any property traceable to such property.
Title 31 U.S.C. § 5332 prohibits smuggling or attempting to smuggle more than $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments into or out of the United States, with the specific intent to evade the U.S. currency reporting requirements codified in Title 31 U.S.C. §§ 5316 and 5317.

Related offenses include Title 18 U.S.C. § 1960 for Unlicensed Money Transporter/Transmitter, Title 18 U.S.C. § 1952 for Interstate and Foreign Travel or Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Enterprises, and Title 18 U.S.C. § 1956 for Money Laundering.

The authorities consider bulk cash smuggling to be serious because of its relationship with other types of criminal activity such as drug trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorism. See PATRIOT ACT § 371(a)(5), 115 Stat. 272.

Reporting Offense under the Bank Secrecy Act
Bulk Cash Smuggling is a reporting offense under the Bank Secrecy Act, and is part of the United States Code (U.S.C.) which provides:

Whoever, with the intent to evade a currency reporting requirement, knowingly conceals more than $10,000 in currency or other monetary instruments on the person of such individual or in any conveyance, article of luggage, merchandise, or other container, and transports or transfers or attempts to transport or transfer such currency or monetary instruments from a place within the United States to a place outside of the United States, or from a place outside the United States to a place within the United States, shall be guilty of a currency smuggling offense.

Definition of Monetary Instruments – FinCEN Form 105

The term “monetary instrument” is defined on the FinCEN Form 105 to include:
Coin or currency of the United States or of any other country.

Traveler’s checks in any form.

Negotiable instruments (including checks, promissory notes, and money orders) in bearer form, endorsed without restriction, made out to a fictitious payee, or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery.

Incomplete instruments (including checks, promissory notes, and money orders) that are signed but on which the name of the payee has been omitted.

Securities or stock in bearer form or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery.
Forfeitures in Bulk Cash Smuggling Cases

In many of these cases, even when an arrest for bulk cash smuggling is never made, the federal agents involved in the investigation will seize any currency and subject it to a civil asset forfeiture proceeding.

Under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (“CAFRA”), in an action brought under any civil forfeiture statute, the Government has the burden to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture. See 18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(1).

Any property involved in, or traceable to, a violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5316 may be seized and forfeited to the United States. 31 U.S.C. § 5317(c)(2).

A person violates 31 U.S.C. § 5316 when he or she knowingly transports monetary instruments of more than $10,000 into the United States without filing the required report. See 31 U.S.C. § 5316(a)(1)(B). Whoever, with the intent to evade a currency reporting requirement under section 5316, knowingly conceals more than $10,000 is guilty of a currency smuggling offense. See 31 U.S.C. § 5332.

If you were not arrested or charged with a crime, but your currency was seized, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to find out why you should fight the forfeiture by having your attorney demand the immediate return of the cash by triggering judicial court action.

Read full article here: Sammis Law Firm