U. S. Customs and Border Protection Reports Aggressive Enforcement of Cash Smuggling and Smurfing Laws

In May and June, I wrote posts about cash smuggling on the part of staff and students affiliated with Gospel for Asia (link, link, link, link, link). GFA leaders gave individual travelers envelopes of cash containing $4500 which was to be carried in personal belongings and then given to Believers’ Church headquarters in India. Since the travelers traveled in groups, the total amount of unreported cash was often over the $10,000 allowed by law. Travelers may take any amount of cash out of the country but any amount over $10k must be reported to Customs and Border Protection. Breaking up the total amount into smaller portions carried by individual travelers in a group to avoid detection (sometimes called “smurfing“) is illegal and can result in seizure of the cash and sometimes criminal charges.
After my reports on the practice, GFA leaders said they stopped sending cash to India via student groups, telling staff they were told by their auditor (Bland Garvey) that the practice was legal. Bland Garvey referred me to their attorney who refused to confirm or deny GFA’s claim. Inexplicably, GFA has remained publicly silent about the reasons for cash smuggling or how the donations were used.
In the mean time, U.S. Custom and Border Protection has aggressively enforced laws on cash smuggling. On the U.S. CBP website, numerous press releases detail enforcement actions related to cash smuggling. For instance just yesterday, USCBP reported the following activity:

LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents at the Laredo Port of Entry seized $266,000 in unreported currency in an outbound enforcement action this weekend at the Gateway to the Americas Bridge.

 “Our outbound team maintained their vigilance, utilized their keen inspection skills and seized a significant load of unreported currency,” said Port Director Joseph Misenhelter, Laredo Port of Entry.  “Seizures of unreported currency like this one remove the profit potential from possible illicit activity and help advance our border security mission.”

Stacks of bills totalling $266,000 in unreported currency seized by CBP officers and agents at Laredo Port of Entry
From the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website

The interception occurred on Saturday, Sept. 12 while CBP officers and Border Patrol agents conducting outbound (southbound) inspections at the international bridge referred a 2007 Chevy Equinox driven by a 22-year-old U.S. citizen from Dallas, Texas for a secondary inspection.  CBP officers conducted an intensive secondary examination of the vehicle and discovered packages within the vehicle that contained $266,000 in unreported currency.

CBP officers seized the currency and the Chevy Equinox.  The driver was turned over by CBP officers to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S., however, if the quantity is more than $10,000, they will need to report it to CBP. “Money” means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign coins currently in circulation, currency, travelers’ checks in any form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

According to their website, CBP seises just over $650,000 each day in illegal cash:

CBP seized $50,510 in unreported U.S. dollars and Chinese yuan from a family that arrived Saturday from China after the family reported possessing $3,000.
CBP seizes $650,117 in undeclared or illicit currency every day. There is no limit to how much currency travelers may bring to, or take from the U.S. However, federal law requires travelers to complete financial reporting forms for any amount that exceeds $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

Since I last reported on cash smuggling, CBP has reported several other actions relating to smuggling (list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list,  and smurfing (list, list, list, list). In GFA’s situation, some groups carried over $100k in cash without reporting the cash to U.S. Customs or Indian Customs.