Imagine being presumed guilty of money laundering, tax evasion, or improper reporting for simply being in possession of a large sum of cash. It’s legal and it’s happening.
December 16, 2019
By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP
Imagine hearing those words and being brought up on criminal charges for it.
I’ve read about some pretty crazy stories of people who dared to make too big of a cash deposit or withdrawal at a bank. I even heard about the Department of Justice ordering banks to report anyone engaging in transactions of $5,000 or more.
But this case out of Miami is bananas!
One Customs and Border Patrol Agent was checking Carlos Alberto Munoz-Moyano, who had arrived on an incoming flight from Chile. The agent asked him how much money he was carrying, and Munoz-Moyano said he had $100, the police report said.
He later changed his statement and said he had $9,000, according to the police report.
The agent alerted other agents, who found other attendants from the same fight carrying large amounts of money, the report said; none had a license to transport the cash.
The four defendants were charged with money laundering by evading reporting requirements and being unauthorized money transmitters.
Money laundering by evading reporting requirements, and transmitting money without authorization. I am struggling to find the actual crime in what they did! They incorrectly reported and didn’t have permits?
Over $20,000 was seized. This is brought to you by: “Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017.” For not reporting correctly, these people under this law can face up to ten years in prison.
In another case out of Richmond, a man had $75,000 in cash taken from him by the TSA. He was not charged with anything and was free to board his flight, but the cash was held by the TSA. The rationale for this is reprehensible:
Legal analyst Todd Stone said there are some statutes that allow the government to seize cash.
“The fact of the matter is that there are laws that deal with reporting cash that’s over $10,000 and there are also laws that deal with reporting it to the IRS,” Stone said. “So the theory is when someone is carrying this much cash you’re trying to evade those laws.”
When did a theory like that pass for probable cause? If in fact they thought the person was guilty of evading either or both of those things, why let him go but keep the cash?
This isn’t stopping any time soon, if at all. Civil forfeiture started in the mid 1980s, and in a matter of 14 years has been responsible for the theft of roughly $29 billion in cash and property.
This is not the same as criminal forfeiture which requires a conviction first. Only 13% of forfeiture cases have a conviction tied to it.
Not only is civil forfeiture a work around the burdens of its criminal counterpart, but then there’s Equitable Sharing which is a work around the state laws concerning the civil forfeiture practice.
Let’s say State X has a set of laws concerning civil forfeiture. Let’s also say that those state level laws said there must be a criminal investigation tied to the seized assets and the police may not keep the proceeds.
Local police can seize the assets and submit them to the federal government, and receive up to 80% of the take back, whereby bypassing the state laws. $4.7 billion has been confiscated this way in 14 years.
Equitable Sharing is really an odd way to say money laundering… which is what the folks in Miami are on the hook for. The folks in Miami are also on the hook for not reporting properly their cash holdings. But when each state was asked to provide their records on how much was taken using civil forfeiture, only a third of the states even had records of it.
There’s no transparency. There’s no probable cause. There’s no due process. And there’s little to no chance you’ll see that money or property again once it’s seized.
This is a case unto itself for keeping as many assets as you can offshore and to travel with no cash. Even to some extent cryptocurrencies and gift cards are at stake. Under the same law, you have to declare what you have in crypto before you leave and upon your return. I have no idea how they actually enforce such a thing.
The obligation to declare amounts in any form over $10,000 exists, irrespective of whether custom officials have a way of detecting such holdings. Since digital currencies technically travel with the holder where ever the holder goes, one would have to declare one’s entire crypto portfolio each time the holder entered the U.S.
Such a declaration is not required for travelers who may happen to have bank accounts or precious metals worth more than $10,000 stored outside the United States.
Keep your assets safe. Definitely avoid traveling with cash you aren’t willing to part with. I don’t know how strong a case this is for crypto. It’s less likely to be detected than straight cash, so it is safer.
This is, however, an iron clad case for storing your wealth and precious assets offshore. If it’s not on your person or in US jurisdiction, you are better off.
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