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Currency Seizures at LaGuardia Airport

Special Agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at the LaGuardia Airport detain traveler carrying more than $10,000 in U.S. currency. If they suspect the money is being used for criminal purposes, then they seize it for forfeiture. Instead of leaving the airport with your money, they might hand you a receipt listing an "undisclosed amount of U.S. Currency."

The practice of seizing U.S. Currency is so common that over the past 10 years, Homeland Security has seized more than one billion dollars. Many of these seizures occur at the busiest airports serving New York City including John F. Kennedy International (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA) airports located in the borough and county of Queens.

The seizures are based on a claim under federal law that the money was involved in illegal activity such as drug crimes or money laundering. In addition to Homeland Security, other agencies are involved in currency seizures as the LaGuardia (LGA) Airport including:

  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA);
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); or
  • Port Authority Police Department (PAPD).

When it comes to currency seizures at the airport, attorney Rochelle Berliner understands the tactics used by each of these agencies. To show why the initial detention was illegal, Rochelle Berliner acts quickly to preserve the surveillance video recordings from the LGA CCTV maintained by the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD).

Attorney for Cash Seizures at LaGuardia Airport

If your money was seized for forfeiture at the LaGuardia Airport, contact Attorney Rochelle Berliner to find out the best ways to get the money back. With offices in Queens, NY, Rochelle Berliner can quickly file your verified judicial claim form demanding court action in compliance with the strict requirements of 18 USC 983(a)(2)(C).

Filing the verified claim is the only way to contest the legality of the seizure. The claim triggers a 90-day deadline and forces CBP to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

While the claim is pending, Rochelle Berliner can also file the paperwork to preserve the surveillance video recorded on the LGA CCTV maintained by the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD). Preservation letters for video recordings and other evidence can also be sent to the Senior Attorney at the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor in New York City.

For evidence and video maintained by TSA, the preservation letter can be sent to the Field Counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration.

Contact us to find out why the administrative procedures with CBP are far less effective. Those administrative procedures include filing a petition for remission or mitigation, or a claim in compromise. Before you decide how to proceed, contact an attorney at the best way to get back money seized for forfeiture from the LaGuardia Airport.

Call (718) 261-5600.


Notice of Seizure of U.S. Currency at LaGuardia Airport

Within 60 days of the seizure of money at the LaGuardia Airport the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeiture (FPF) Office of CBP will send a "Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants CAFRA Form." The form is sent via certified mail return receipt requested.

 

  • the CAFRA Seized Asset Claim form; and
  • the CAFRA Election of Proceedings form.

 

The notice of seizure explains that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized U.S. Currency as the 'proceeds of unlawful activity" under:

  • 18 USC 981(a)(1)(C);
  • 18 USC 1956(c)(7); or
  • 18 USC 1961(1).

Federal civil asset forfeiture laws were created to combat crimes for bulk cash smuggling, money laundering, financial crimes, trafficking narcotics, or smuggling weapons. But when U.S. Currency is seized at the LaGuardia airport, the Special Agents have been known to cast too wide of a net and seize money from innocent travelers. Unfortunately, once the money is seized, the process to get it back is complicated.

Although special rules apply when a traveler is carrying $10,000 or more in U.S. Currency on an international flight, most flights out of LaGuardia Airport are domestic. Since the LaGuardia Airport has no border control facility, any international flight without border preclearance must use the nearby JFK Airport or Newark Airport.

Special Agents with Homeland Security Investigations are involved in most currency seizures at LaGuardia. DEA seizes cash at the JFK airport before domestic flights, but otherwise, the process is very similar.

The notice of seizure explains the following options:

  • Contest the legality of the seizure by demanding the matter be referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office which triggers a 90-day deadline for an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) to either return the money or file a forfeiture action in federal court pursuant to 18 USC 983(a)(3);
  • Submit to the CBP’s administrative proceedings by filing a petition within 30 days;
  • Submit to CBP's administrative proceedings by making an offer in compromise: or
  • Abandoning the property.

If you take no action, then the CBP will initiate a forfeiture action by publishing the notice on or about 35 days from the date of this letter. For any property valued in excess of $5,000, the notice will be published on the internet at www.forfeiture.gov for 30 consecutive days.

If the AUSA files a complaint for forfeiture after money is seized at LaGuardia in the county and borough of Queens, the case is filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York. By fighting the case aggressively, we can help you avoid a judgment of civil forfeiture being entered by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Read more about currency seizures for forfeiture at airports in New York.


Fun Facts About the History of LaGuardia (LGA) Airport

The site was originally home to the Gala Amusement Park which was owned by the Steinway family. In 1929, the site became a private flying field named Glenn H. Curtiss Airport. By December of 1939, the location was home to the New York Municipal Airport. Later, the airport was renamed the North Beach Airport. In 1953, the airport was rebuilt and renamed "LaGuardia Airport" to honor Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who served as the mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945.

Today, LaGuardia has four terminals (A, B, C, and D) with 86 gates. As the largest transit-related police force in the United States, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department (PAPD) provides law enforcement at LaGuardia airport. PAPD's LaGuardia Airport Command is located in Building 137.

Before the COVID-19 crisis began, LaGuardia Airport had nearly 30 million passengers each year. Since COVID-19, the traffic at the airport has decreased but the number of cash seizures has increased.


This article was last updated on Friday, October 9, 2020.

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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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