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Seizure of U.S. Currency at Airports in New York

Did you know that federal agents are seizing more U.S. Currency (cash and money) from travelers at the airport? In currency seizure cases, the federal agents work for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

To seize money taken on a domestic flight, the federal agent needs "probable cause" that the money is involved in drug trafficking or money laundering. For an international flight, the federal agent can seize the money if the traveler failed to disclose carrying more than $10,000 on the FinCEN 105 Form (often called "unreported currency").

If a federal agent detains you and takes your cash, you might get a "custody receipt for seized property and evidence." The receipt might list the phrase "undisclosed amount of U.S. Currency seized" instead of the amount of money taken.

If you do nothing, then within 60 days, the federal agency will send you a "Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants CAFRA Form." The forms are sent from the Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures (FPF) Officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or another agency. That letter triggers a 35-day deadline for you to file a verified claim for court action.

Don't just wait on the letter to arrive in the mail. Instead, immediately after the seizure at the airport, Attorney Rochelle Berliner can help you file a verified claim demanding early judicial intervention (sometimes called "immediate court action").

The verified claim can be filed the same day as the seizure because you are not required to wait 60 days for the notice of seizure letter to arrive in the mail.

Attorney for Bulk Cash Seizures at Airports in New York

Attorney Rochelle Berliner represents clients after incidents at the busiest airports in the greater New York City metro area including:

Many of these cases involve seizure by the federal agents in the New York Field Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The New York Field Office is responsible for an area that extends almost 130 miles west to east, from Newark, NJ to Montauk, NY, & 140 miles north to south from Poughkeepsie, NY to Manasquan, NJ. 

Immediately after the money is taken, Ms. Berliner can prepare your verified claim and demand for court action. If you already received the notice of seizure in the mail, then your time for making the verified claim is limited.

Ms. Berliner can also help you obtain a copy of any surveillance video at the airport showing the way you were initially detained, stopped, and searched. The video surveillance needs to be obtained from the airport authorities immediately. Sometimes, a court order is required to preserve the video. 

Federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are also making more seizures of bulk currency at bus stations, train stations, and on the highways. Read more about how NYPD seizes property for forfeiture.

No matter which law enforcement agency seized your property, retain an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney to represent you at every stage of the case.

For seizures of "unreported currency" during international flights at JFK, Rochelle Berliner understands the process used by Christopher LaTourette, Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture Officer, New York Field Office. We can help you file a claim with the Port Director of Customs and Border Protection, Office of Fines, Penalties, & Forfeitures, at the JFK Airport in Jamaica, NY.

Fighting a seizure for forfeiture is not a good do-it-yourself project. So many people miss a deadline or make another mistake that prevents them from getting the money back. An experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney, Rochelle Berliner, can act quickly to protect your rights.

Call (718) 261-5600.

Notice of Seizure Form After a Cash Seizure at the Airport

If you do nothing after the seizure, then you will have to wait 60 days for the "Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants CAFRA Form" from a Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures (FPF) Officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to arrive in the mail. The notice will include two other documents:

  1. The Election of Proceedings form; and
  2. The Seize Asset Claim form.

If you have not already retained an attorney by the time the notice arrives in the mail, then act quickly. Attorney Rochelle Berliner, an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney with offices in Queens, can help you file the verified claim for the U.S. Currency and fight to get all of the money back.

Contact attorney Rochelle Berliner to find out why you should bypass the less effective administrative proceedings such as filing a petition for mitigation or remission.

Although the administrative proceedings rarely result in all of the money being returned, a demand for court action by filing the verified claim is faster and far more effective. In fact, demanding court action by filing the verified claim is the ONLY way to challenge the legality of the taking.

If you demand court action, an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) might decide to order the agency to immediately return your money instead of instituting judicial forfeiture proceedings.

Once you demand court action, only the AUSA has the authority to decide whether to file a forfeiture action against the property in federal court pursuant to 18 USC Section 983(a)(3)(19 USC Section 983(a)(3)).

The Notice of Seizure from CBP FPF

The notice of seizure will list the case number and explain that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or another agency seized the property described below at the airport in the greater New York City area. The form will sometimes classify the money as "803 PC U.S. Currency" before listing the "appraised domestic value of the property."

HSI typically seizes U.S. Currency without an arrest for at least $10,000 or more. When amounts under $5,000 are seized, the seizures and forfeitures actions might be brought under state law instead of federal law.

The letter might claim that the property was subject to forfeiture under one of the following provisions:

  • Laundering Monetary Instruments under 18 USC 981(a)(1)(A), 18 USC 1956(c)(7)(A), 18 USC 1961(1)(B); or
  • Interstate and Foreign Travel or Transportation in Aid of Racketeering under 18 USC 981(a)(1)(A), 18 USC 1956(c)(7)(A), 18 USC 1961(1)(B), 18 USC 1952.

The letter will acknowledge that CBP records indicate that you have an interest in the seized property. Once you get the notice of seizure in the mail, act quickly to find an experienced attorney.

Filing a Verified Claim for Court Action

After a seizure of money at the airport, attorney Rochelle Berliner can help you file the verified claim. It must be received by CBP within 35 days after the date the notice of seizure is mailed. An attorney can help you file the verified claim immediately - even on the same day the money was seized. You do not have to wait 60 days for the notice of seizure.

Your attorney can help you demand that the case is referred to the U.S. Attorney who has the authority to file a forfeiture action against the property in federal court pursuant to 18 USC Section 983(a)(3). An attorney can also help you file an Election of Proceedings form and complete the Seize Asset Claim form or otherwise comply with each requirement in 18 USC Section 983(a)(2)(C).

The sooner you file a verified claim, the sooner your attorney can start the process of getting the money returned. Do not delay. Seek out the services of an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney today.

Retaining the attorney soon after the seizure is important so that evidence can be preserved. Did you know that the video of your detention is only retained for 30 days after the incident?

The authorities at the airport make it very difficult to preserve the video. The preservation letter for surveillance video at the JFK and LaGuardia airport must be sent to the FOI Administrator, 4 World Trade Center, 150 Greenwich Street, 25th Floor, New York NY 10007, or pafoi@panynj.gov.

Your attorney might have to follow up several times to confirm the video is preserved. In most cases, the video will not be released to your attorney without a court order. Nevertheless, getting the video is often the most important piece of evidence for the claimant.

Final Administrative Action by CBP

What happens if you choose to file an administrative petition and are dissatisfied with the petition decision (initial petition or supplemental petition)?

Then you have an additional 60 days from the date of the initial petition decision or 60 days form the date of the supplemental petition decision or such other time as specified by the Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures Officers 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 prior to the issuance of a petition decision by filing a claim (also called requesting "judicial action" or "early judicial intervention").

The notice of a final administrative action advises you that the property seized by the United States Customs and Border Protection, is to be summarily forfeited to the government as provided for in 19 USC 1607, 1608, and 1609, including the amendments enacted by the Customs and Trade Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-382) approved August 20, 1990.

For the final administrative action notice sent by CBP after a seizure of undeclared currency seized at JFK airport, the notice MIGHT provide:

To stop the summary forfeiture proceedings, you may file a claim with:

Port Director of Customs and Border Protection
Office of Fines, Penalties, & Forfeitures
Room 200, Bldg. 77, 2nd Floor
JFK Airport
Jamaica, New York 11430

The claim must be filed within 30 days from the date of first publication of the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit. The first legal notice will appear on the Department of Justice website www.forfeiture.gov on or about ______. The property will be forfeitures to the United States and disposed of according to law if no claim is filed by ______.

The notice of seizure might be signed by Christopher LaTourette, Fines, Penalties & Forfeiture Officer in the New York Field Office of CBP.

This article was last updated on Friday, February 15, 2021.

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Rochelle Berliner
Rochelle Berliner

Rochelle Berliner grew up in Queens, NY. She started New York Law School in January 1989 and graduated in June 1991. Immediately after law school, she started working at the New York County District Attorney’s Office, where she stayed for approximately 14 years...

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