Dea seized money at airport

Dea seized money at airport DEFAULT

Can TSA Seize Cash?

When a person travels to the airport with a large amount of cash in their checked or carry-on luggage, it might be discovered by a TSA screener at the airport’s security checkpoint.

Does TSA or a TSA screener have any authority to seize cash intended for a civil asset forfeiture action? The short answer is “absolutely not.”

Nevertheless, the TSA screeners often illegally detain travelers until a law enforcement officer arrives. By working together, TSA and law enforcement officers have found creative ways to seize larger amounts of U.S. Currency from travelers for civil asset forfeiture proceedings.

Even when TSA doesn’t detain the traveler, the TSA screener might provide a secret tip to law enforcement officers who can then detain the traveler for the purpose of seizing the U.S. Currency.

How do TSA screeners provide these secret tips? One common example would involve a TSA screener sending a message to a nearby law enforcement officer that says:

“A traveler named ______ just passed through a TSA checkpoint. The airport scanner and screening equipment just detected the presence of a large sum of U.S. Currency estimated to be in excess of $10,000 in a carry on bag. The passenger can be described as ______. The carry on bag can be described as _________. The traveler is now headed to Gate Number __ in Terminal Number __ for Flight Number ___ departing at [time].”

After getting such a tip from TSA, the state or federal law enforcement officer might approach the traveler and start asking questions. The law enforcement officer might ask to search the traveler and then discover the money. The law enforcement officer is not usually honest about the fact that TSA provided the tip and will instead claim the detention was “random.”

If the money is located in the checked luggage during the screening process, then TSA screener or airline employee might contact state or federal law enforcement officers. Those officers will quickly bring a drug dog to the scene to snip the checked luggage.

If the drug dog gives a positive alert, then the officer might pull the bag without a warrant and take the bag to the traveler to ask for “consent” to search it.

Or the officer might contact the traveler waiting at the gate and ask for permission to pull the bag so that it can be searched. Either way, without a warrant, these types of searches are highly problematic under the constraints of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

What does the TSA or the TSA screener get out of the arraignment? We’ve seen several cases in which the TSA screener or their supervisor was promised a secret monetary reward based upon the amount of money seized.

Those actions are almost always taken without a warrant or an exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. As a result, if your money was seized at the airport, you should retain an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney who can help you fight to get it back quickly.

Attorneys for TSA Seizures of U.S. Currency at the Airport

Attorney Leslie Sammis helps travelers after TSA discovers their U.S. Currency and causes its seizure for a civil asset forfeiture proceeding. After the seizure, we prepare and file a verified claim showing your interest in the property.

Filing the verified claim is the first step in demanding court action to determine whether the seizure of cash at the airport was legal from the inception and whether sufficient grounds exist to continue the forfeiture proceeding.

Filing the verified claim also starts a 90 day deadline for the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) to give the money back or file a complaint for forfeiture in the U.S. District Court.

The procedures for civil asset forfeiture proceedings vary from state to state. Even when a federal agency seizes the cash at the airport, the procedures vary slightly from agency to agency.

If your money was seized at the airport, call us for a free consultation. We take airport currency seizure cases throughout Florida and the rest of the United States.

If your detention violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution for warrantless searches and seizures during prolonged detentions, then contact us to fight the case. Contact us to find out how to get seized money back from the airport.

Call 813-250-0500.

Are Airport Searches for U.S. Currency Legal?

TSA screeners often stop travelers for bringing a wad of cash to the airport for a domestic flight. Although TSA can’t take your money, they might attempt to call in a law enforcement officer to seize your money for civil asset forfeiture.

Customs investigates travelers who bring more than $10,000 on an international flight unless they disclose the U.S. Currency on a FinCEN 105 form. Is there a TSA cash limit? No, there is no limit on the cash you are permitted to bring on a domestic flight and there is no rule that requires you to disclose carrying more than $10,000 on a domestic flight.

Are these searches and detentions legal? The short answer is “No, usually not.” Although as a practical matter, so few travelers know how to file a verified claim for court action to contest the legality of the initial seizure, that the agency is rarely forced to return the money.

Over the years, these agencies have gotten very good at separating people from their money and preventing them from having any effective way to contest the seizure. Law enforcement officers that seize money from travelers at the airport vary from location to location but might include:

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • local law enforcement officers including:
    • airport police
    • a local police department
    • the sheriff’s office

No matter which state or federal agency took your money. Our experienced civil asset forfeiture attorneys can point you in the right direction immediately after the taking. Act quickly to preserve all avenues of attacking the seizure.

What Authority Does TSA Have for Searches and Seizures?

TSA Screeners only have the authority to detain the traveler, their carry-on luggage, or their personal effects, for long enough to determine whether:

  • any of the defined prohibited items are present;
  • the traveler and their carry-on luggage and personal effects do not present a threat to transportation security; and
  • the transportation security screening has concluded.

Despite the limited authority and duties afforded to TSA, the screeners often follow an unwritten TSA policy or practice of seizing travelers’ currency, carry-on luggage, personal effects, and/or persons after TSA Screeners have concluded the transportation security screening and determined that no items that pose a threat to transportation security are present.

TSA Screeners make these seizures in order to hold the traveler’s currency, carry-on luggage, personal effects, and/or person until law-enforcement officers can arrive, without regard for whether reasonable suspicion or probable cause exists for the seizures.

What Authority Does TSA Have to Seize Money for Forfeiture?

TSA has no authority to seize money or other valuable property for forfeiture. Instead, TSA’s authority to operate is granted by statute.

For example, 49 U.S.C. § 114 provides TSA with the “responsible for security in all modes of transportation” including the authority to conduct air transportation security screening operations as provided in 49 U.S.C. § 114(e).

Additionally, 49 U.S.C. § 114(f)(3) allows TSA to develop “policies, strategies, and plans for dealing with threats to transportation security.” TSA’s authority over air transportation security is explained in 49 U.S.C. § 44903, while the authority to screen passengers and property is set forth in 49 U.S.C. § 44901.

TSA’s statutory authority is so narrowly limited to these purposes that Congress felt it was necessary to specifically authorize TSA to keep loose change and other money that is incidentally left behind at transportation security screening checkpoints. See 49 U.S.C. § 44945.

Although transportation security screenings at airport checkpoints by TSA Screeners are administrative searches conducted for the limited purpose of ensuring transportation security, the searches are not to be conducted for general law enforcement purposes.

TSA’s screening procedures are designed to assess whether air passengers or their luggage are a threat to transportation security by screening for dangerous items. In fact, the scope of TSA transportation security screenings is limited to “the inspection of individuals and property for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries.” 49 C.F.R. § 1540.5; see also 49 U.S.C. § 44902.

Air travelers “may not have a weapon, explosive, or incendiary, on or about the individual’s person or accessible property.” 49 C.F.R. § 1540.111. The definition of the term “weapon, explosive, or incendiary” is defined by TSA’s exhaustive list found at 70 Fed. Reg. 9878 (Mar. 1, 2005).

Notably, TSA’s exhaustive list of defined weapons, explosives, or incendiaries does not include “cash,” “currency,” or “money.”

If your money or other valuable property was seized at the airport, then contact an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Call 813-600-0239.

This article was last updated on Friday, September 10, 2021.


Seizures of Cash at the Airport

Was your money, cash, currency, or other property seized at the airport in Florida or another state? If you were the victim of “jetway robbery” by federal agents, then hire attorney Leslie Sammis at Sammis Law Firm.

We take cash seizure cases on a contingency fee basis which means you pay no attorney fees upfront. Instead, we accept a fixed percentage of the recovery. If we win the case, then the attorney fee and costs come out of the money awarded to you. If we recover no money, then you owe us nothing.

If your money was confiscated at any airport in the United States, then we can start the process to get the money back immediately. Find out why we recommend hiring an attorney to take the following steps:

  • contest the legality of the seizure by filing a verified claim demanding court action;
  • preserves any video surveillance evidence from the airport authorities before it can be destroyed;
  • obtain a court order to compel the airport authorities to turn over the video even if TSA or the airport authorities object.

After your money is seized, the federal agency that confiscated the cash will send you a letter with the “notice of the seizure” within 60 days. Don’t wait for that letter to take action.

Instead, hire an attorney to file your verified claim demanding the return of the money. By filing a claim on the same day as the seizure (or shortly thereafter), we can help you speed up the process.

Although you have the option to petition for relief through remission, mitigation, or by making an offer in compromise, those administrative options typically DO NOT work. People often regret that decision when their administrative petition for relief is eventually denied with a form letter.

If you wait for the notice of seizure to arrive in the mail, it will be sent by certified mail to the address listed on the receipt. Read the letter carefully. Pay particular attention to the last day to file a verified claim for court action.

If the claim is not received by the agency by this date (in their hands), then the claim will be rejected. Likewise, if you do not provide all of the required information or verify the claim properly, then the claim will be rejected.

Attorney Leslie Sammis can make sure that your verified claim is prepared properly and received by the agency within the allotted time. Then she can begin showing the authorities all of the legal reasons it must be returned.

If federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or the Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), seized your cash at the airport, we can help you fight to get all of the money back.

Instead of just letting the government keep your money, you should retain an attorney who can fight the case aggressively.

Attorneys for Airport U.S. Currency Seizures in Tampa, FL

Want to know how to get seized money back from the airport? At Sammis Law Firm, attorney Leslie Sammis is experienced fighting civil asset forfeiture actions. She fights for the speedy return of cash or other property confiscated at the airport for forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 881.

We can take your case on a contingency basis. That way, you do not have to pay us any attorney fees or costs unless we recover the money or other property.

We are often contacted by attorneys outside of Florida who want us to co-counsel with them on a forfeiture case. If you are an attorney and would like to discuss the best way to fight the seizure, then give us a call.

If federal agents took your money, immediately contact an attorney who can file an immediate demand for court action and “early judicial intervention.” By demanding court action, you force the agency to either return your money or convince the U.S. Attorney’s Office to file the forfeiture action in the U.S. District Court.

When it comes to airport cash seizures by agents with DEA, ICE, CBP, or HSI, a civil asset forfeiture attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, can help you fight to get your money back. Our forfeiture lawyers can challenge the legality of the seizure and the validity of any forfeiture action.

We also represent clients if their cash or other property is seized for forfeiture at any bus station or Amtrak train station in Florida.

Call 813-250-0500.

Our Case Results in Airport Seizure Cases

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm have represented clients in numerous airport seizure cases throughout Florida and other parts of the county. Our recent victories in currency seizure cases include:

  • $40,000+ was seized by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Brevard County, FL, after a routine traffic stop, and in November of 2020, CBP agreed to return 100% of the money.
  • $14,826 returned by CBP in November of 2019 after that exact amount was seized by task force officers with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), HSI IRS Special agents, a DFW Police CID Detective, a Tarrant County Narcotics Detective, and a K9 drug dog at the airport in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, during a “passenger interdiction as part of an ongoing bulk cash smuggling initiative” after making “consensual encounters with random individuals.”
  • $16,563 seized by an agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at Tampa International Airport and $16,563 was returned within 4 months in 2020 (after CBP alleged that our client failed to file a FinCEN Form 105 before an international flight);
  • $159,950 plus interest returned by Homeland Security after a cash seizure at Tampa International Airport within 6 months in 2020 (after we alleged that some of the money had gone missing but everything deposited into the account by the agent was returned);
  • $63,490.00 seized by Homeland Security at the Orlando International Airport, but the entire amount was returned within five months (after a complaint for forfeiture was filed by the Assistant United States Attorney and dismissed in the U.S. District Court) in 2020;
  • $45,001 seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Cleveland, Ohio, who returned $45,001 in 2020;
  • $52,620 seized by DEA at the Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport but the full amount was returned six (6) months in 2019;
  • $30,000 seized in 2019 at the Tampa International Airport and all $30,000 was returned;
  • $30,000.00 seized at an airport in San Francisco but $29,375.89 was returned;
  • $13,260 seized at the Orlando International Airport and $13,260 returned within six (6) months;
  • $13,227 seized by a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) at the Tampa International Airport and only $11,892 returned (after we alleged that some of the money had been stolen and was never found by HSI).

Defenses to Civil Asset Forfeiture Actions at the Airport

Your attorney can help you assert defenses in order to convince the attorneys working for the government that it would be better to return the money or property to you without further delay.

Defenses that can be raised by the civil asset forfeiture defense attorney include:

  • an unlawful interrogation;
  • illegal detention of the subject from the inception;
  • illegally prolonged detention;
  • illegal search and seizure without a warrant;
  • lack of nexus defense;
  • an innocent owner defense;
  • an excessive fine defense:
  • statute of limitations;
  • showing a legitimate source or use;
  • insufficient evidence;
  • conflict in the evidence; or
  • unreliable K-9 evidence.

We can help you negotiate the return of your money or other property. The amount of money the government is willing to return will depend on the strength or weakness of your case.

When you hire a Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney, make sure they are able to fight the case to the end. The best settlements usually occur early in the case or right before an adversarial preliminary hearing or at trial.

Busiest Airports in Florida for Cash Seizures

With offices in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, we fight cash seizures at airports throughout Florida and the United States. We are familiar with the best ways to fight seizures of cash at the following airports:

We also represent clients for incidents at the reliever airports including all of the reliever airports in the Tampa Bay Area including:

  • Albert Whitted Airport (SPG SPG KSPG) in St. Petersburg
  • Tampa Executive Airport (was Vandenberg Airport) (VDF KVDF); and
  • Peter O. Knight Airport(TPF TPF KTPF) in Tampa, FL.

How to Get Your Cash Back After an Airport Seizure

In each of the past three years, federal agents with CBP have seized more than $60 million in cash from international travelers. Many of these seizures of money occur at airports. These takings have become known as the “jetway robbery.”

If you are traveling within the United States, there is no legal limit to the amount of currency that you may carry at any given time. But if you carry a large amount of currency, then state or federal agents might try and seize it during a traffic stop on the roadway, at a port of entry, bus station, train station, or airport.

Seizures at the airport in Florida are particularly common during the screening process at a security checkpoint before boarding.

Instruments used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) during the screening process can detect the amount of currency in your carry-on or checked luggage. Even handheld detectors get signals from the strips in dollar bills. When the strips are stacked together, the signal is even stronger.

If you have more than $10,000.00 in cash, even for a domestic flight in or out of a Florida airport, it might result in federal agents detaining you and seizing any money in your possession.

Did you know that TSA is not allowed to seize money? When TSA discovers large amounts of bundled currency in a carry-on bag during the screening process at the security checkpoint, TSA might secretly tip off a law enforcement officer who can swoop in and begin an investigation. The law enforcement officer might cover up the fact that the tip came from TSA and instead claim the detention was “random.”

Although you are not required to make any statement, many people start talking soon after the detention begins. When the federal agency encounters a story that doesn’t make sense, they might just seize the money.

Because many people don’t immediately contest the seizure, federal agents have figured out an easy way to separate large amounts of money from suspected drug smugglers, money laundering, or bulk cash smuggling suspects.

After the seizure of money from a person at the airport, the agents will often write you a receipt for an “undisclosed amount of U.S. Currency” before depositing the cash into an “Asset Forfeiture Fund” managed by the Department of Justice.

You are then provided with an opportunity to contest the seizure of the referenced currency in the United States District Court.

How do you get seized money back after a seizure at the airport? Although you have the option to petition for remission or mitigation, those administrative options don’t work.

Instead, talk to an attorney about “filing a claim” for court action (sometimes called “early judicial intervention”). We can explain how to get seized money back from the airport.

Call us at 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.

Indicators of Drug Trafficking or Bulk Cash Smuggling

Federal agents at the airport are looking for the following indicators of drug trafficking or bulk cash smuggling which might involve:

  • traveling with a one-way ticket;
  • buying that ticket at the counter or within 72 hours of the departure;
  • flying to a state where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes such as Colorado or California;
  • using cash to buy the plane ticket;
  • using another individual to purchase the plant ticket;
  • not having any lodging arrangements;
  • artfully concealing U.S. currency in carry-on luggage;
  • providing inconsistent statements regarding the currency;
  • having no verifiable source of income;
  • possessed evidence of structuring activity;
  • having a criminal record; and/or
  • being a male between the age of 18 and 39 years old.

When cash is seized, the agents are often looking for a young man traveling to California who recently purchased a one-way airline ticket.

The agents assume that the person is coming into a state where marijuana is legal to purchase a large amount of marijuana that can be brought back to their home state where it can be sold on the black market for a large profit.

Obtaining Surveillance Video from the Tampa International Airport

The authorities at the airport, including the Tampa International Airport, never make it easy to obtain video surveillance evidence. For this reason, you need an attorney to quickly send the appropriate letters to identify and preserve the evidence.

In Florida, the Airport Authorities retain surveillance video for 30 days per the Florida Department of State retention schedule. The retention policy provides:



This record series consists of surveillance recordings created to monitor activities occurring inside and/or outside of public buildings and/or on public property (including in public vehicles such as school buses and municipal buses, and in public roadways such as intersections monitored by red light cameras).

Since these recordings may play an integral part in prosecution or disciplinary actions, agencies are responsible for ensuring that internal management policies are in place establishing criteria for which images should be retained for further investigation. 30 days.

You can find the entire schedule on the Florida Department of State website.

If you make a request for video surveillance, the authorities at the Tampa International Airport and Central Records will claim that the video is both a component of and reveals part of Tampa International Airport’s security system or surveillance techniques and thus is confidential and exempt from public disclosure under Florida Statute Sections 119.071(2)(d), 119.071(3)(a), 281.301 and/or 331.22.

Note also, if applicable, active criminal investigative information is also exempt under Section 119.071(2).

If the video also involves the checkpoint area, it contains sensitive security information controlled by 49 CFR Parts 15 and 1520 or other pertinent state or federal statutes. As such and in accordance with those statutes, the Airport Authority will only disclose the requested video to you upon a showing of good cause before a court of competent jurisdiction.

Until you obtain such a court order, you should file the appropriate demand to preserve the video that has been retained until that time. Read more about seizures of money at the airport in Orlando, FL, and the best way to preserve the video at that airport.

If you are wondering how to get the seized money back from the airport, then contact us to find out the importance of obtaining the surveillance video from the airport authorities.

The Typical Airport Seizure of Currency Case

Many of these seizures of currency cases involve an alleged “consensual encounter” at the airport between the traveler and law enforcement officers. The officer might approach the traveler while wearing plain clothes.

The officer might report saying that the traveler is not under arrest and is free to continue with his travel. The report will allege that the traveler did one or more of the following:

  • spoke with the agent;
  • complied with the agent’s request to produce identification;
  • engaged in conversation;
  • explained where he was traveling from and to;
  • answered questions about whether the tickets were purchased with cash or purchased by another person;
  • admitted not having lodging arrangements in the destination city;
  • gave free and voluntary consent to search his luggage;
  • acknowledged having a large stack of currency wrapped with rubber bands and consisting of all $100 bill denomination or smaller denominations;
  • made other statements about where the money came from that were determined to be inconsistent.

Before terminating the encounter, the officer will then tell the traveler that it suspects the currency was related to controlled substances and will be detained pending further investigation.

The officer might report that a canine (K9) trained to alert to the presence of controlled substances alerted in a positive manner to the currency.

The report might allege that the final count of the currency seized from traveler’s luggage by a financial institution determined that the traveler was in possession of a large amount of currency. The referenced currency is then subjected to forfeiture proceedings under 21 U.S.C. § 881.

Choosing Between an Administrative or Judicial Forfeiture

You have the opportunity to challenge the forfeiture. The federal agents hope you take no action or choose an administrative forfeiture. The better course of action is challenging the taking in a judicial forfeiture. The judicial forfeiture is triggered by filling the verified claim for court action.

The agency then sends the demand to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Assistant United States Attorney in the forfeiture unit then has only 90 days to decide whether the property should be returned or whether a complaint for forfeiture should be filed in the U.S. District Court.

Going along with administrative forfeiture proceedings is a bad idea because they are handled in-house by the same agency that took the money. These administrative forfeitures do not take place in a courtroom and no judge will ever see the case.

For administrative forfeiture, you get none of the protections contained in the rules of evidence or the rules of procedure that normally accompany a lawsuit. The agents prefer the administrative forfeiture challenges for all of these reasons.

On the other hand, judicial forfeiture proceedings requires the filing of a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court where the rules of evidence and the rules of procedure apply. More importantly, requesting a court action might trigger the State Attorney’s Office to decline to file a forfeiture action which is the quickest way to get all of the money back.

The Notice of Seizure after Money is Seized at the Airport by DEA or ICE Agents

If the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”) seized the cash, then they will issue a “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence” (Form 6051S). The custody receipt includes an “FPF” number that allows the case to be tracked by the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Office of Customs (“FP&F”) for the airport where the cash seizure occurred.

If the CBP agent had you sign a DHS Form 4607 entitled “Notice of Abandonment of Assent to Forfeiture of Prohibited or Seized Merchandise,” then they might not send you a notice at all. The DHS Form 4607 cites 19 CFR Part 162. Even if you were forced to sign the HDS Form 4607, you can still make a verified claim for the property and fight your case.

Your verified claim then invalidates your signature on the “notice of abandonment or assent to forfeiture of seized property.”

If DEA or ICE agents took your money at the airport, you are entitled to due process of law which means a fair hearing to contest the legality of the taking of your cash or other property.

If your cash or property is taken, the agents are required to issue you a receipt and then a notice of seizure. The notice of seizure must be issued to any interested person to notify them of the seizure and give them a chance to file a claim.

An interested party can include anyone who has a legal right to claim the seized asset including the owner of the property or a lienholder.

Under 18 U.S.C. 983(a)(1)(A), the government has 60 days from the date of the seizure of your cash at the airport to send you a Notice of Seizure. When the property is seized by a local or state law enforcement agency, the deadline can be extended to 90 days.

If the notice of seizure is not provided within the applicable timeline, then the government must immediately return the property. If the government actually files a Civil Forfeiture lawsuit before the 60 or 90-day deadline expires then the Administrative Forfeiture process ends and the Judicial Forfeiture process begins.

What is the Deadline to File a Claim for Immediate Judicial Intervention?

If the government sends you a notice of seizure within the 60 or 90-day deadline, then any party with an interest in the property has 35 days to file a claim. The 35-day deadline begins when the notice was mailed.

If the required claim is not RECEIVED within that 35 day period, then the government gets to keep all of the money under an administrative forfeiture action. If the proper claim is filed within the 35 day period, then the government only has ninety (90) days thereafter to do the following:

  • return the cash or property to the person making the claim;
  • filing a civil forfeiture lawsuit in the district court; or
  • obtain a criminal indictment showing that the property is subject to forfeiture.

Keep in mind that a civil forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction, instead, the government must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is subject to forfeiture.

Problems with Filing a Petition for Remission or Mitigation

The main problem with trying to file a petition for remission or mitigation is that the case will then be decided by a Senior Attorney (including Carmen R. Pomares) with the Asset Forfeiture Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice.

If you file a petition for remission or mitigation regarding the seizure of money or other property, the DEA might simply deny the petition because it fails to meet the requirements for remission or mitigation. 28 C.F.R. Part 9 (2017).

Federal regulations explicitly prohibit remission of forfeiture unless the petitioner establishes the following:

  1. A valid, good faith, and legally cognizable interest in the seized property as an owner or lienholder; and
  2. Qualification as an “innocent owner” within the meaning of the applicable civil forfeiture statute.

You should understand that the remission or mitigation of a forfeiture is neither a right nor a privilege, but an act of grace. In re the Matter of Sixty Seven Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Dollars ($67,467.00) v. United States, 901 F.2d 1540, 1543 (11th Cir. 1990); Laconia Savings Bank v. United States of America, 116 F. Supp. 2d 248 (2000).

A Petition for Remission and Mitigation “does not serve to contest the forfeiture, but rather is a request for executive pardon of the property based upon the petitioner’s innocence or, for a wrongdoer, on a plea of leniency.” United States v. Vega, 72 F.3d 507, 514 (7th Cir. 1995).

A decision with respect to remission or mitigation of a forfeiture is made solely at the discretion of the Attorney General. See 21 U.S.C. § 881 (d) (2017); 19 U.S.C. § 1618 (2017).

The Attorney General and the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have delegated the authority to determine the merits of such petitions to the Asset Forfeiture Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice. 28 C.F.R. §§0.100 (b), 0.104; 28 C.F.R. §9.1 (b).

The Senior Attorney with the Asset Forfeiture Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice acts as the Ruling Official and considers whether the evidence is sufficient for forfeiture.

The attorney with the DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Section starts with a presumption that a valid forfeiture occurred. 28 C.P.R. § 9.5 (a) (4).

The Petition for Remission or Mitigation Terminates Any Change for Judicial Review

The decision of Carmen R. Pomares or another Senior Attorney with the DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Section on a petition for remission or mitigation is not thereafter subject to judicial review on its merits.

In United States v. One 1987 Jeep Wrangler Automobile, 972 F.2d 472,479 (2d Cir. 1992), the court found that the “overwhelming weight of authority supports the position that a federal court lacks jurisdiction to review the merits of administrative forfeiture decisions once the administrative process has begun.” United States v. Hewett, (S.D.N.Y. 2003) 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9812; Walker v. DEA, (S.D.N.Y. 2003) 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14958.

In other words, once the administrative process has begun, a federal district court generally does not have subject matter jurisdiction to review the merits of an administrative forfeiture decision. Dawson v. The Drug Enforcement Administration, 927 F. Supp. 748 (1996).

Reasons the Petition for Remission is Denied

The petitioner has the burden of establishing the basis for granting a petition for remission or mitigation of forfeited property. See Regulations Governing the Remission or Mitigation of Civil and Criminal Forfeiture, 28 C.P.R. § 9.5 (a) (3). See 19 U.S.C. § 1618 (The Attorney General may return the property if he finds mitigating circumstances to justify the remission.).

At the time of seizure, there was sufficient probable cause to believe the currency represents proceeds from the illicit sale of controlled substances and/or was used or intended to be used to facilitate illicit controlled substance transactions in violation of21 U.S.C. § 881 (a) (6).

The petition is often found to be devoid of any type of documentation to establish that the referenced currency was derived from legitimate sources. Pursuant to 28 C.F.R. §§ 9.3 (c)(iv) and 9.5 (a)(3), a petitioner bears the burden of establishing the basis for granting the petition. Failure to provide the required information may be cause for the denial of the petition.

For these reasons, the attorney with the DEA will often find that the Petitioner has not provided sufficient documentation to support a legitimate source for the referenced currency.

Examples of documentation that would show sufficient documentation to support a legitimate source for the reference currency would include employment, tax, bank, or other documentation that would establish the petitioner had legitimate sources of income.

Whether Extenuating Circumstances Warrant Mitigation of the Forfeiture

Even when the petition does not meet the minimum conditions for remission, as a matter of discretion, the attorney for the DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Section will re-examined the petition to determine whether extenuating circumstances exist that warrant mitigation of the forfeiture. 28 C.F.R. § 9.5 (b).

In many of these cases, the attorney for the Asset Forfeiture Section of the DEA will conclude that the petitioner has failed to adequately demonstrate that any mitigating factors exist to justify any relief from the forfeiture.

Eighth Amendment Prohibitions Against Excessive Punishments

The attorney for the DEA will also review the facts of this case to determine if the forfeiture would be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive punishments, as discussed in Austin v. United States, 113 S. Ct. 2801 (1993).

The DEA attorney will determine that the administrative forfeiture was entirely proportional to the offense, considering the substantial connection between the forfeited property and the offense.

In addition, the correct forum in which to challenge the constitutionality of the forfeiture is Federal District Court. Since the Petitioner failed to contest this forfeiture judicially, this option is no longer open. United States v. Giraldo, 45 F.3d 509 (1st Cir. 1995); Caraballo v. Drug Enforcement Administration, 62 Fed. Appx. 362, 363 (2003).

Reconsideration of the DEA’s Decision to Deny Remission or Mitigation

The Petitioner may request reconsideration of any decision. 28 C.F.R. § 9.3 (j). Only one request for reconsideration shall be considered. Any request for reconsideration must be based on information or evidence not previously considered.

This new information or evidence must be material to the basis for this denial or must present a basis clearly demonstrating that the denial is erroneous. Requests must be postmarked or received by this office within 10 days of your receipt of the letter informing you of the decision.

Further correspondence with this office must include the DEA Case and Asset ID numbers referenced above and be addressed to: Carmen R. Pomares or the Forfeiture Counsel assigned to the case with the Asset Forfeiture Section, Drug Enforcement Administration, HQs Response, 8701 Morrissette Drive, Springfield, Virginia 22152.

Seizure of Unreported Currency at the Airport

If your money was seized by officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) then you are not alone. On a typical day in 2017, CBP officers around the country seized $265,205 in undeclared or illicit currency. Many of these cases involved the seizure of unreported currency at airports.

Travelers may carry as much currency as they wish into and out of the United States and it is not taxed at the port of entry. However, federal law requires that travelers who are carrying more than $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments must report it to a CBP officer and complete a U.S. Treasury Department financial form.

To find unreported exportations of bulk U.S. currency, CBP performs outbound inspections to find the proceeds from alleged illicit activity or currency that funds transnational criminal organizations.

If your money was seized by federal agents for the failure to report currency, by agents with Homeland Security Investigations, then contact an experienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm.

What Happens to the Money Seized at the Tampa International Airport

Under provisions of the U.S. Department of Treasury Guide to Equitable Sharing for Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, state forfeiture funds shared with local law enforcement agencies must be expended for law enforcement purposes.

Likewise, the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (FCFA) authorizes law enforcement agencies to use the proceeds collected under the FCFA for authorized law enforcement purposes as well.

Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement for Airport Seizures

Is a warrant needed before the authorities can seize money at the airport for civil asset forfeiture? Yes, unless an exception found in 18 U.S. Code § 981(b)(2) applies.

18 U.S. Code § 981(b)(2) provides:

Seizures pursuant to this section shall be made pursuant to a warrant obtained in the same manner as provided for a search warrant under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, except that a seizure may be made without a warrant if—
(A) a complaint for forfeiture has been filed in the United States district court and the court issued an arrest warrant in rem pursuant to the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims;
(B) there is probable cause to believe that the property is subject to forfeiture and—
(i) the seizure is made pursuant to a lawful arrest or search; or
(ii) another exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement would apply; or
(C) the property was lawfully seized by a State or local law enforcement agency and transferred to a Federal agency.

Is a warrant needed to search a suitcase at the airport?

Law enforcement officers will often allege that a positive K9 alert or consent provides a lawful basis for a search of luggage at the airport. The standard conditions of most airlines have a condition of carriage that requires the traveler to consent to an inspection of luggage.

For example, one of the standard conditions of America Airline’s conditions off carriage previously provided:

“[t]o fly on American, you must…[a]llow your baggage to be inspected by Customs, the TSA or other government officials” and “[a]llow you and your bags to be searched for explosives, dangerous weapons or banned substances.”

Additional Resources

DEA Asset Forfeiture Section – The Asset Forfeiture Section provides legal advice on a variety of issues related to criminal, civil, and administrative asset forfeiture. Attorneys in the asset forfeiture section of the Office of Chief Counsel in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) review pre-seizure probable cause determinations for legal sufficiency and to ensure that due process is provided to all parties with a legal interest in the seized property. Attorneys provide legal advice and support to DEA management and field offices worldwide. These attorneys also rule on petitions for remission or mitigation of forfeiture. Attorneys in the asset forfeiture section represent DEA agents in confidential informant lawsuits, reviewing relevant sections of DEA and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy, and draft legal memoranda analyzing issues inherent in asset forfeiture matters. The attorney also responds to daily inquiries regarding proper processing and disposition of seized and forfeited assets, prepares litigation reports supporting probable cause determinations for judicial forfeiture cases, and drafts declarations to support litigation positions. The attorney works with DEA and other law enforcement personnel to support the U.S. Attorney’s Offices with judicial forfeiture cases, assists DEA personnel working with other Federal agencies, communicates with private attorneys, strengthens drug-related investigations and pre-seizure planning, serves as a liaison between DEA Agents and federal prosecutors, and provides legal instruction to domestic and international asset forfeiture personnel.

Field Office of the CBP in Tampa, FL – Visit the website of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to find the contact information for the Field Office in Tampa, FL, at 1624 East Seventh Avenue, Suite 300, in Tampa, FL 33605. The phone number is (813) 712-6100. The field office is opened from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday. The press office is managed by Michael Silva.

Forfeiture Funds for Tampa International Airport Police Department – At a recent board meeting of the Tampa International Airport Aviation Authority held on February 6, 2020, at 9:00 a.m., in Boardroom Level 3 at Tampa International Airport, the board authorized the expenditure of state forfeiture funds. Under Authority Standard Procedure 5440.14, expenditures from State forfeiture funds can be made only after approval from Legal Affairs and the Authority Board. At a board meeting, it was discussed that Legal Affairs reviewed the request and agreed with the expenditures. In 2017, the board authorized the expenditure of State forfeiture funds to be used by the Tampa International Airport Police Department (TIAPD) in an amount not-to-exceed $5,000 for the purchase of critical incident management training. The item was included in the State Forfeiture Funds Budget. In 2020, the board authorized the expenditure of Federal forfeiture funds to be used by the Tampa International Airport Police Department for a maximum purchase authorization of $19,460.80 for the purchase of police carrier vests.

Jetway Robbery? Homeland Security and Cash Seizures at Airport – Visit the website of the Institute for Justice (IJ) to find an article explaining why Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents seizure money, cash, and U.S. Currency from unsuspecting travelers on both domestic and international flights. The study uses data from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture database, the “Seized Assets and Case Tracking System” (SEACATS) from 2000 through 2016.

Finding an Attorney for Airport Currency Seizure in Florida

If you were the victim of “Jetway Robbery” after your currency was seized at the airport or a port of entry, then contact an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney at Sammis Law Firm with offices in downtown Tampa, FL.

The agencies involved in the seizure of currency for forfeiture include:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
  • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI);
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); or
  • local law enforcement agencies.

We can help you understand how to fight the seizure of your currency at an Amtrak train station, port of entry, bus station, through the mail, or at an airport.  Whether your cash was taken before a domestic or international flight we can help.

We also represent clients who are arrested at the airport for carrying a concealed weapon or other contraband. Read more about attorneys fighting a DEA seizure and forfeiture case.

Call 813-250-0500.

This article was last updated on Friday, September 3, 2021.

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Tampa woman says DEA seized over $40,000 at the airport without cause

TAMPA (WFLA) – Stacy Jones and her husband like to gamble as a hobby.

Recently the couple traveled to North Carolina to go to the reopening of a casino and met with friends the night before they were to go to the casino.

“We had dinner with friends that night and they had decided they wanted to purchase a car that we had and they paid us in cash,” said Jones.

Before they could start gambling however, they learned a relative passed away so they made immediate plans to fly back to Tampa with $43,000 in a carry on bag.

“I’ve traveled with cash in the past, we are recreational gamblers so it’s just something that we’ve done and never thought twice about,” said Jones.

However, when they made it to the airport, a TSA agent started asking Jones and her husband about the cash.

“So she opened the bag and started pulling out the money and said where did this come from,” said Jones.

They were then questioned by a local sheriff’s deputy and then questioned by DEA agents.

“At that time they said it was just very suspicious and our story wasn’t adding up,” said Jones.

She says a DEA officer even called her friend to ask about the cash purchase of the car, but when the friend didn’t know exactly how many miles were on the odometer, the DEA informed Jones they were seizing the cash because they suspected it was being used for a drug transaction.

Jones and her husband have not been charged with any crime but now have hired attorney Dan Alban and is attempting to get the money back.

“This is based on the law known as civil asset forfeiture. Civil forfeiture allows the government to seize and permanently keep your property, even if you’ve never been charged with a crime,” said Alban.

He has filed a class action lawsuit for Jones and other clients with similar stories.

“DEA has a policy of seizing large amounts of cash at airports regardless if it has any proof if the money is connected to drug trafficking and unfortunately that sweeps up a whole bunch of innocent people who have perfectly legitimate reasons for traveling with cash,” said Alban.

There is no law in the United States that limits how much cash a U.S. citizen can fly with, but Alban believes anyone traveling with more than $5,000 is at risk of having it seized with no evidence and no criminal case being filed.

“We think there is actually a nationwide DEA policy of seizing threshold amounts of cash from people,” said Alban.

A spokesperson for the DEA did not immediately respond to questions about this incident.
Jones says she just wants her cashback.

“I’m finding it’s hard to fight to get it back. It’s a harder fight than I thought,” said Jones.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

DEA Seized Life Savings From Hard-Working Grandfather, Never Charged Him With a Crime

Government seizes billions in cash from air travelers without ever filing a criminal charge

CHARLOTTE (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — It was just before seven in the morning when Cody James wiggled out from under his backpack and plopped it down onto the conveyor belt to be scanned. That backpack was likely the most expensive one rolling through the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport that July morning.

It contained $27,600, cash.

James had checked flight rules before he took off and found no rule or law banning passengers from carrying large amounts of cash on domestic flights. Probably because, as we’ll detail later, there is no law against it.

He’d watched a Transportation Security Administration officer use the X-Ray monitor to zoom in on the cash he had bundled inside, but said the screener said nothing to him about it and never opened to bag to ask about it.

What he didn’t know was the TSA was in the process of flagging a federal law enforcement officer to track him down inside the terminal.

The TSA officers waved James through, he put his shoes back on, slung his backpack onto his back and soldiered off toward terminal A to spend the next 45 minutes waiting on his boarding call for his flight to Oregon.

His first stop: the terminal bar for a cold beer to ease the nerves of his cross-country flight. James works night shift, so a 7 a.m. beer to him is a 5 p.m. beer to someone else.

With only minutes before boarding, James said he was sitting in a chair drinking his beer and chatting with another passenger. James noticed two officers heading his way.

One of the officers walked up and stood over him with his hand clutched to a dog’s leash.

“And he said, ‘My dog hit your bag,’ which his dog hadn’t even been between my legs at this time and my bag’s in between my legs,” James told FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr the day after his airport encounter with federal agents.

James said the officer was dressed in all black and he couldn’t figure out what government agency the officer worked for. He didn’t remember seeing the officer or dog until that moment and said it wasn’t the same officer or dog he passed before the security checkpoint nearly an hour earlier.

“Then he said, ‘Do you mind if my dog searches your bag, it’s a narcotics dog.’ I said, I don’t mind, I don’t have any narcotics. So, I handed my bag to him and he tossed it on the ground, and he was hollering at his dog and then he said, here…just like that, pointing at my bag,” James recalled.

“He said, ‘Do you mind if I search; I’m going to search your bag, you mind if I search it for narcotics,’ and I said, ‘I don’t mind, I ain’t got no narcotics.’ He searched my bag, found the money and he asked me to step to the side and he got me up out of my chair and walked me to the other side of the airport,” James said.

“He started taking all my money out of the bag and asking me how much it was, what it’s for, where I’m going—just asking me all kind of questions and no matter what I said I knew it wasn’t going to work, because he just kept asking me more and more and more and more and I had two different officers asking me these questions,” James said.

James said he felt the questions weren’t any of the officer’s “damn business.” James said one of the officers asked him why he was drinking a beer at 7 a.m.

“Why are you selling beer at 7 a.m.,” James snapped back. He had lost his patience with the officers’ questions and what he felt was an invasion of his property and freedom to travel. “I hadn’t done anything wrong, wasn’t doing anything wrong, so yeah I was highly pissed off,” James said.

James had been back home to Rutherford County for about a week. He was on the last days of an extended vacation from his packaging job in Houston, Texas where he’d saved his vacation days to take all at once, he said. He’d spent the past few weeks “road tripping” with his children from Texas to South Carolina and attending a divorce court hearing in South Carolina and meetings with his divorce attorney.

James said he was making a quick trip to fly to Oregon that Friday morning and return to North Carolina on Sunday.

“I was headed to Oregon to visit a friend from home I’d grown up with. It was a one-day trip before I headed back home to Texas on the last weekend of my vacation. We were going to visit a casino and I was looking at possibly buying a truck I saw for sale up there,” James explained to FOX 46.

James said he had the cash bank banded together in separate stacks. The officers took all the cash from the bag and placed it into a clear plastic evidence bag. At one point, James said the officers wanted him to sign a form, forfeiting the money to the government in order to avoid a federal investigation.

“I wasn’t about to sign my money over…I didn’t do anything wrong,” James said.

The officers gave James his bag back but took the cash and left through a locked door inside the terminal and disappeared, “He just took my money and then 5 to 10 minutes later, he’s gone. I can’t find anyone and the only thing anybody’s telling me is to call that number.”

The officers handed James a Department of Homeland Security form titled, ‘Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence.” The form lists James’ name, the date and time of the seizure and lists the property seized as “US Currency,” but the form does not list an amount.

James said the officers did not count the cash when they seized it.

The form also appears to list the officer who seized it as “TFO Bollinger,” but the officer’s signature doesn’t show clearly on the form. James was later able to track down a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer inside the airport and was given the name and number of someone he could contact: “TFO Brown.”

James identified the person as Steve Brown.

We called the number, which rings to a voicemail inside the airport for a Steve Brown. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department confirmed Brown is a detective with the city. Brown is cross sworn as a Task Force Officer to help the federal government conduct cash seizures inside the city’s airport.

“It was $27,600,” James said in the interview with FOX 46. “And why were you traveling with that,” Barr asked, “I was traveling with that money because I’m going through a divorce and I have a lot of court costs and stuff to pay and I can’t leave my money in my bank account now because my wife’s been taking my money out of it,” James replied.

James claimed he earns an annual salary of $90,000 from his packaging plant job near Houston. We confirmed this by inspecting James’ latest W2 form and electronic wage statements. James said instead of depositing his pay into his bank account he cashes the checks and locks it away at home. The money inside his backpack were his savings and wages earned that he took with him on his visit to NC, he said.

James left the airport and drove back to his mother’s home in Rutherford County that morning. At the time he still had no idea who’d taken his cash—or why.


Keisha Cole and her son Cody James were waiting in their driveway when we arrived on July 17; a little more than 24 hours after CMPD officers took $27,600 from James inside the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

With nowhere else to turn, Cole contacted FOX 46 within hours of the seizure asking for us to investigate. The following day we met with James at his mother’s Rutherford County home to learn more about what happened.

“He asked me how old my son was, and I told him he was 29. But he’s never been in any trouble in his life and that we didn’t understand what this was, we didn’t know there was issues, so we don’t know what steps to take to get it back. He said he would not talk to me about the case at all that my son needed to stand on his own two feet,” Cole said recalling the phone call she had with TFO Brown following the seizure.

Cole said Brown wouldn’t tell her why they seized the money, but indicated it was because James was headed to a state with liberal marijuana laws, “He said that it appeared to be drug related because of where he’s going,” Cole told Barr.

“What, Oregon,” Barr asked, “Oregon, because he’s going to Oregon,” Cole said.

James’ criminal record shows a pending misdemeanor driving under the influence case out of Houston from March but shows no drug charges ever filed against him. James said he’s never had a drug charge and doesn’t take or deal drugs.

On August 3, James received a letter in the mail from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The letter was the first formal communication from the government since CMPD seized his cash on July 16. The four-page letter informed James the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized his money and included confirmation the amount of money in James’ backpack totaled $27,600.

“The property was seized and is subject to forfeiture under the provisions of: Proceeds of Unlawful Activity – Proceeds Traceable to Controlled Substances,” the letter stated. The letter offered no further detail as to the evidence the government gathered to make its determination.

The government took James’ cash under what’s known as civil asset forfeiture. It’s a judicial process where the government can take property without ever charging the person they’re taking the property from with a crime.

“Are you involved in any sort of drug trafficking or money laundering,” Barr asked. “I’ve never been involved in any kind of drug trafficking or money laundering. I work 60, 70 hours a week almost every week of my life the past 10 years,” James said.

“I had no narcotics on me, no narcotics at all and this is what I get,” James told FOX 46. James said he doesn’t use, buy or sell drugs and guaranteed a search of his phone, email, and personal life would prove this.

“Then what’s going on here,” Barr asked, “I have no idea. Robbery from the government,” James said.


Cody James hired a Raleigh asset forfeiture attorney to help him with the legal process to file a formal claim for his money. The attorney’s fees could likely exceed the $27,600 James is fighting to get back as many of these legal fights with the government surpass 12 months.

James is not alone. Records obtained from the Department of Homeland Security’s Freedom of Information Act library show 30,670 cash seizures happened inside the nation’s airports between 2000 and 2016. The data was made public after the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm based in Washington DC, sued the government for the records in 2016.

DHS has not yet provided FOX 46 with seizures records for 2017 through 2021. Those records were requested through a FOIA request submitted to DHS on July 29.

The Institute for Justice published a report into civil asset forfeiture in July 2020 titled ‘Jetway Robbery?’ The report detailed DHS cash seizures at the nation’s airports. The report found civil asset forfeiture has allowed the government to turn the system into one that “punishes people without proving they have done anything wrong.”

“Federal law enforcement agencies are tasked with finding and punishing criminals. But these findings suggest DHS airport currency seizure and forfeiture practices put innocent Americans at risk,” the IJ report concluded.

Between 2000 and 2016, the government’s seized at least $1.8 billion from people in airports across the country. That total does not include the past five years of forfeiture data DHS has not yet produced in response to a FOX 46 FOIA request.

DHS records show government agents working inside airports in Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington and Greensboro seized $133 million from passengers between 2000 and 2016.

Agents seized $18 million from passengers inside South Carolina airports and another $109 million from passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Some of the money seized in these totals include international flights where federal regulations require passengers to declare cash totaling more than $10,000. But for flights that never leave the borders of the United States, there is no regulation or law limiting the amount of cash someone can carry onto an airplane.

In 2020, the Institute for Justice filed a federal class action lawsuit against the TSA, Drug Enforcement Administration and the federal government over the “unlawful and unconstitutional” practices of cash seizures inside airports “without any indication of criminal activity,” Institute for Justice attorney Dan Alban wrote in the lawsuit.

Alban is asking the federal courts to end these seizures, at least for people who are never charged or convicted of crimes.


Not a single federal agency involved in these cash seizures would agree to an interview. Neither DHS, ICE, the DEA, nor Customs and Border Protection would agree to be questioned about these seizures and why the government shouldn’t have to prove some level of criminality before taking property.

The only agency involved in these seizures to agree to interview was the TSA.

“If a wad of cash comes in or if it’s hidden on the inside of a bag, then we’re going to take a look at it that way and say, hey, this doesn’t quite look right. We’re going to call our law enforcement partners in,” TSA Spokesman Mark Howell told FOX 46.

TSA was the first government agency to spot the money inside James’ backpack in the Charlotte airport in July. Although the officers scanning James’ bag never mentioned the money to him, the TSA immediately notified CMPD officers, who are cross sworn as DHS task force officers, to intercept James at his terminal.

Although TSA officers running the screening checkpoints are not law enforcement officers, the agency has essentially worked as frontline watchdogs for federal law enforcement in civil asset forfeiture by spotting passengers with cash, then flagging those people for federal agents.

“So large amounts of cash, drugs, things like that we’re not necessarily looking for, but if we find them in the course of the screening operations, we’re going to contact law enforcement and then let them make the determination on if there’s something suspicious there or how they’re going to proceed,” Howell said.

We showed Howell TSA Rule 100.4 titled ‘Transportation Security Searches.’ The directive states “Traveling with large amounts of currency is not illegal,” for domestic flights. However, for international flights a passenger must declare currency amounts totaling $10,000 or more. The directive goes on to state the TSA’s purposes for screening “bulk currency” is to ensure it isn’t concealing explosives.

The directive states “As a general matter, there should be no reason to ask questions of the passenger about currency.” However, the TSA’s policy gives officers discretion to determine whether the presence of cash “appears to be indicative of criminal activity,” which includes the “quantity, packaging, circumstances of discovery, or method by which the cash is carried, including concealment.”

Cody James said he simply had his cash in two bundles, secured by bank bands and dropped inside his backpack. He said he never once tried to conceal the money and knew the TSA would see it when his bag was scanned, anyway.

“It says here, TSA rule 100.4, is traveling with large amounts of currency is not illegal,” Barr asked TSA’s Mark Howell, “Yeah, it’s not, it’s not. And that’s why I said it’s allowed. But again, when it’s in the screening checkpoint, again, like I said, if there is a large amount of cash, or if the way that it’s packaged, it looks strange, then we’re going to contact law enforcement.”

Howell said TSA’s job is to prevent “dangerous” items that could “jeopardize” aircraft from getting onboard. Howell said the agency’s sole mission is to prevent another 9/11 style attack.

“Is the TSA looking at a bundle of cash as a potentially dangerous item to bring on board,” Barr asked Howell. “Whenever something looks suspicious or is illegal, they’re (law enforcement) contacted and brought in at that point,” Howell replied.


The first time Ramon Lyon got to see his interrogation video was sitting in his lawyer’s Raleigh law firm with our cameras rolling a few weeks ago. Lyon walked into the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in June 2020 with $115,413 in his carry-on.

He wouldn’t leave the airport with a dime of it.

Lyon leaned over a laptop to get a closer look at the video, “I’m like, I just got robbed, I can’t believe I just got robbed without a gun. I’ve been robbed before, but like, without no gun, like…it’s the nicest robbery ever,” Lyon said recalling his thoughts as a Raleigh airport officer told him he was taking his cash.

Lyon said he was flying to California to purchase $100,000 in fish tables from a supplier there. The tables are gaming devices Lyon said he planned to add to his gaming businesses in Raleigh. Airport surveillance video shows Lyon going through the TSA checkpoint, walking through the body scanner and a TSA officer patting his shoulders down.

Meanwhile, a TSA officer running the scanner turns to another TSA officer nearby while Lyon’s bag is stopped inside the scanner. The second officer grabbed Lyon’s red carry-on bag off the conveyor belt and walked it to a table at the end of the screening area.

An airport officer soon joins Lyon and the TSA officer, and the video shows Lyon hand the airport officer his identification. Lyon eventually lands inside an airport interrogation room where airport surveillance cameras captured both audio and video of what happened inside.

The video shows an airport police officer and a TSA officer reaching into Lyon’s bag and picking up the cash inside. Both used cell phones to photograph the cash. About 90 minutes into the recording, Raleigh Police Department Officer Aaron Woodlief, who is identified as a detective by another officer inside the room, walked in.

Woodlief described himself as being “attached” to Homeland Security when it comes to cash seizure investigations. Lyon’s legal team said Woodlief is an airport officer cross sworn as a federal task force officer. Woodlief confirmed his work for Homeland Security in the video when he pulled his badge out to show it off to Lyon, “The TFOs get silver badges, we get cool guy gold badges. Task Force Officers, we’re duly sworn. It’s kind of crazy, we’ve got jurisdiction beyond our normal property when we need to,” Woodlief told Lyon in the recording.

Woodlief presented Lyon with what the agent called “options” related to his cash. Woodlief questioned Lyon about where he was going, what he planned to buy and why he didn’t have a hotel room booked or a return plane ticket.

Lyon asked Woodlief if he’d done anything wrong by not having his trip more organized. “Nothing’s wrong with it, but I feel that it’s odd. I feel that it’s odd,” Woodlief told Lyon in the interrogation.

“I think there is probably some legitimacy here to your claims but based on some of these findings I’m going to seize your money under administrative seizure for Homeland Security. We’re going to give you about 60 days to come up with (inaudible) receipts and stuff (inaudible) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will give you the chance to provide legitimacy for your money,” Woodlief told Lyon. “It’s just something, something—it feels like there’s something more here,” Woodlief said.

Woodlief then describes to Lyon the drug trafficking and money laundering investigation he planned to open into him. Despite the agent’s suspicion Lyon might be part of a larger criminal organization, the agent was willing to make Lyon a deal.  

“There is an option to avoid all that, not to sound like a used car salesman but to give you all your options,” Woodlief told Lyon in the recording, “We do have abandonment forms here, as well, if you choose to forego the seizure of the phone and any investigation, you can walk away from that money.”

“I’m going to seize the money, but if you want to walk away from a federal investigation that’s linked to the money, those are your options. Just letting you know…you can think about that while I fill out your federal seizure form,” Woodlief said. “If we do a federal investigation, I will probably end up figuring out your favorite color, your favorite food, we’ll look at your bank account, that kind of investigation,” Woodlief said as Lyon shook his head.

The agent spends another several minutes describing how deep the feds plan to go with an investigation, but Lyon still had a chance to avoid it all if he agreed to sign the money over to Woodlief, “What you want to do, my man? If we go down that route, we’re going to put in over 40 hours, that’s what we do an entire background…” Woodlief said before Lyon interrupts, “Why you say it like that,” Lyon asked. “That’s what we do, that’s what we do,” Woodlief responded.

The agent told Lyon if he decided against forfeiting his cash, the investigation would also include Woodlief seizing both his cell phones and using what he called a “Cellbrite machine” that would allow investigators to break into Lyon’s cell phone even if he doesn’t provide the codes to unlock them.

Woodlief then mentions again that Lyon could avoid his phones being searched and “forego an investigation and walk away from it (cash)” if he’d sign the forfeiture forms Woodlief prepared.

“I’m dreading it because that’s drama for me,” Woodlief said referring to the search warrants he’d need to get for Lyons’ phones, “That’s a lot of court orders and now we do Zoom meetings with judges to get stuff done.”

Lyon told Woodlief he couldn’t hand over his phones. Woodlief, the recording shows, continued to press.

“I’ve been as forthcoming with you as we can and I’m glad to answer any other questions, but that’s where we are right now. If you sign this, nobody from the US Attorney’s Office will contact you and we won’t be, doing any type of, seeking any type of investigation. It ends when we both sign that,” Woodlief told Lyon.

“Once you sign that it’s done,” Woodlief said.

“Just used all the scare tactics, the threat of the federal investigation, I’m going to take your phones and do all that, but I told that man, I use my phones to run my business, like I’m giving you my phones and I’m going to lose out on my money that I make and my business, no. I told them I’d be back with my lawyer,” Lyon told FOX 46.

Lyon eventually signed the forfeiture form and walked out of the airport to call his attorney. Lyon is currently fighting through the federal court to get his money back.


In October 2020, Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Fesak filed a forfeiture complaint with the federal court in Raleigh. The case isn’t against Ramon Lyon. The defendant is listed as $115,413 in U.S. currency.

It’s the exact amount of money Woodlief seized from Lyon in June 2020.

“The defendant constitutes money furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a controlled substance or listed chemical in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, proceeds traceable to such an exchange, and/or money used or intended to be used to facilitate a violation of the Controlled Substances Act,” Fesak wrote in the October complaint seeking to seize Lyon’s cash forever.

Lyon answered Fesak’s complaint by filing a claim for the cash in November 2020. Lyon was not charged with any crime related to the seizure then, and now 15 months later has still not been charged.

“Did they accuse you of being tied to money laundering or drug trafficking,” Barr asked Lyon, “Yeah,” Lyon responded. “Did they prove it,” Barr asked, “No,” Lyon responded. “Are you being prosecuted,” Barr asked Lyon to which he responded, “No.”

“What’s going on here,” Barr asked. “I got robbed, they just robbed me. That’s what’s going on,” Lyon said. 

DHS has not detailed any specific criminal act it believes Lyon committed or is involved in related to the cash seizure. In an Oct. 8, 2020 affidavit attached to the Lyon complaint, DHS Special Agent Tony Bell wrote that federal investigators “have initiated an investigation” into a California-to-the-Carolinas drug trafficking organization “and its members” for money laundering and conspiracy to traffic marijuana.

Bell’s affidavit does not indicate whether Lyon is a member of that crime ring nor does Bell state when federal investigators initiated the investigation. The affidavit also does not state whether the investigation started before Woodlief intercepted Lyon at the Raleigh airport.

The affidavit accuses Lyon of lying about the amount of money he had when he was initially stopped at the TSA screening checkpoint, lying to the initial officers about what he was using the money for, that an officer noticed “a strong odor of marijuana coming from the luggage,” and that Lyon had “artfully concealed” a bundle of vacuum sealed money under the liner of his carry-on bag.

Bell, relying on his “training and experience,” explained that “proceeds of illegal narcotics” are often vacuum sealed to hide the smell of drugs that might still be attached to the money.

The affidavit also detailed Lyon’s criminal record with Bell describing it as “extensive.” Bell wrote that Lyon had multiple felony drug trafficking and distribution convictions, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm by a felon with the last convictions happening in January 2011.

Lyon told FOX 46 he hasn’t been in trouble in the past decade since getting out of the drug world nearly 11 years ago, “I can’t get away from it, I can’t escape it, man. It follows me everywhere I go, and it’s been ten-plus years since I’ve been in trouble and it follows me and ain’t nothing I can do,” Lyon said.

“Once he saw that I had a record, it was open game; I was open game for him. He was like, ‘I’m about to have a field day with this guy,” Lyon said referring to Woodlief’s decision to seize his cash.


“The policy basically is: if we see cash, we will seize it,” Institute for Justice attorney Dan Alban told FOX 46. Alban is recognized as a national expert in civil asset forfeiture defense. We traveled to his offices in Washington, DC to interview him in August.

Alban’s firm’s class action lawsuit against the government represents potentially thousands of people who’ve had their cash seized in airports – people the government has never charged with crimes.

“The vast majority of folks who’ve approached us, we’ve looked into their situation, and it’s not at all evident that these folks are criminals,” Alban said. “They don’t ever have to charge those folks with a crime. They don’t have to get a conviction in court, they can just accuse the person of having some involvement with drug activity, and they keep their cash forever.”

Our analysis of 16 years of DHS’s Seized Assets and Case Tracking System, known as SEACATS, airport seizure data shows these cases rarely turn into a criminal prosecution. Of the 55,935 SEACATS cases identified in the data, only 1,988 cases – just 3.5% – were labeled “judicial criminal” in the government’s records. 

These agencies got the power to seize under the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, according to Alban. The federal legislation expanded civil asset forfeiture and created what Alban called “a financial incentive” for law enforcement agencies by allowing them to keep every dollar seized through these civil seizures. The legislation was aimed at crippling organized crime rings by stripping them of the cash earned from their crimes.

The government has to only show it’s more likely the cash is connected to criminal activity than not under what’s known as the preponderance of the evidence standard in the nation’s civil courts.

“All the federal government has to do is put on a couple of law enforcement officers who say, ‘In my years of experience, this person fits the profile of a drug courier, we had a drug dog that alerted on their cash’ and that is often enough to overcome this very low burden of proof that it’s more likely than not that someone is traveling with cash that is somehow connected to illegal activity,” Alban said.

“Now, that’s absolutely outrageous. That’s not how things should work. The government should never be able to forfeit property from someone without convicting them of a crime. And that’s why we are trying to put an end to civil forfeiture,” Alban said.

“In all of the cases that you’ve handled, where currency has been seized at an airport, how many of your cases resulted in a criminal prosecution,” Barr asked William Pruden, a forfeiture attorney in Raleigh who represents Lyon and Cody James. “None. Not none of my civil asset forfeiture cases, even outside of airport,” Pruden said.

Pruden watched the Lyon interrogation video and said he believed the officer was attempting to coerce Lyon into signing his money away by “threatening” a federal investigation. Pruden thinks the courts and Congress need to act to ensure truly innocent people aren’t getting snagged in this fight against crime.

“I’m not saying civil asset forfeiture, in general, doesn’t have; it does help take down cartels and criminals, but these airports seizures are just unique in the way that you’re scanning your money, or your money is getting x-rayed and your bag’s getting searched. You’re basically giving the government—you’re showing the TSA, hey, I’ve got all this money. Why would you do that if you were going to be using that money to fly to for some nefarious purpose?” Pruden asked.

Most people don’t fight to get their money back, according to Pruden, because the cost to fight the government quickly exceeds the amount of money taken in the first place.

Pruden thinks the investigative tactics Officer Aaron Woodlief displayed in the Lyon interrogation show the government’s primary interest in seizing cash has little to do with crime fighting, “It solves no crime. It’s a short answer, it doesn’t,” Pruden told FOX 46.

U.S. Representative Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican, introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act) again in this session of Congress. The legislation could, among other things, end these seizures for people where the government can’t provide “clear and convincing evidence” they’re linked to crimes.

Walberg’s FAIR Act has garnered 19 coauthors, half of whom are Democrats.  

We asked every federal agency performing these seizures for an interview. Not one would agree to schedule one with us. DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement press office would not work to schedule an interview, but sent us a statement:

“Homeland Security Investigations conducts investigations into global criminal enterprises and terrorist networks that violate U.S. laws by utilizing the agency’s unique and expansive criminal and administrative authorities.  Across the country and around the world, HSI operates initiatives to counter threats to public safety, including transnational gangs, weapons trafficking, cybercrimes, narcotics smuggling, human trafficking, child exploitation, and financial crimes.  HSI conducts investigations of bulk currency smuggling under anti-money laundering statutes in Titles 18 and 31 of the U.S. Code.  These investigations identify and disrupt money laundering activities that support transnational criminal organizations by targeting courier networks who utilize U.S. transportation systems, to include the commercial airline industry, to conceal and transport illicit proceeds both domestically and abroad.”

-Britney L. Walker, ICE Office of Public Affairs

Since each of these agencies fall under the executive branch, we asked the White House for a response. President Joe Biden, a U.S. senator at the time, was a coauthor on the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which expanded the government’s powers to seize cash in this way.

The Biden Administration would not agree to an interview to discuss its position on these seizures and the seemingly innocent people caught in crossfire of the federal government’s work to fight organized crime.

The FAIR Act is currently stalled in multiple U.S. House committees where it’s sat since April 26, 2021.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Seized airport at dea money

Lawsuit: DEA, TSA seize cash from air travelers not suspected of crimes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Watch out if you plan on bringing a lot of cash with you next time you hop on a plane. The TSA and DEA are confiscating it, without any reason to believe a crime has been committed, according to a new federal class-action lawsuit.

The feds are violating the Constitution by seizing money from domestic air travelers “without any indication of criminal activity,” according to the 112-page lawsuit, filed by the non-profit civil liberties law firm the Institute for Justice. Passengers are being flagged “simply because they are traveling with a ‘large’ amount of cash,” the complaint, which documents several cases nationwide, claims.

“It’s not illegal to have cash on you,” said FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant. “So, how can these agencies just take your money?”

“You’re absolutely right, it’s absolutely legal to travel with any amount of money domestically,” said Dan Alban, a senior attorney with Institute for Justice. “But, unfortunately, both TSA and DEA have policies that treat what they consider to be large amounts of money as presumptively suspicious and indicative of criminal activity.”

He is suing on behalf of thousands of air travelers, seeing the return of seized money and an end to a nationwide policy the law firm says is “absolutely absurd” and “unconstitutional.”

“If you travel through an airport with more than $5000 or $10,000, and it’s detected when you go through TSA security screening, they will stop you,” said Alban. “They will detain you. They will interrogate you. And, more likely than not, they will seize your cash and try to permanently forfeit it using civil forfeiture.”

“In almost none of these cases does anyone get charged criminally,” Alban added.

It happened to Stacy Jones. Last year, she and her husband traveled to Wilmington. The couple sold their 2016 Maserati for $28,000 cash. They had another $10,000 they planned to use for gambling, and $4000 in loose spending cash, according Jones, who is part of the lawsuit.

“As my bag went through the TSA woman said, ‘I need to look in your bag’ and I was like, ‘Oh did I leave my water in there?,’” said Jones. “I didn’t even think my money was a problem.”

She says two plain clothed DEA agents “interrogated” her for an hour. She says she gave agents the phone number of the person who bought the Maserati to verify but was told their story “didn’t add up.”

In total, agents seized more than $40,000 from the couple. They eventually got their money back almost nine months later, after filing a lawsuit, she said.

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” said Jones. “There was no evidence of wrongdoing. We were searched. The dog sniffed all of our property….I was even followed into the restroom by a female officer.”

The lawsuit says a similar incident at Charlotte Douglas in 2015. The owner of a California transportation company had $55,000 in cash which he planned to use to buy a tour bus, the lawsuit states. The money was confiscated.

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The TSA did not respond to a request seeking comment.

“The Drug Enforcement Administration does not have a comment at this time because the case is still being litigated,” a DEA spokesperson said in an email.

FOX 46 asked if the agency could comment generally about the practice of seizing money and if cash can be taken without probable cause of a crime. The DEA again insisted it could not comment due to ongoing litigation.

Money seized goes into a federal forfeiture fund which can be used for any law enforcement purpose. Alban says that creates a “perverse incentive” to collect the cash.

“We’re trying to shut this down,” he said. “Because the government should not be treating travelers like ATMs.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Border Force Stop a Man With a Massive Amount of Cash! - Heathrow: Britain's Busiest Airport

DEA to Return $43,000 It Seized From Tampa Woman at Airport

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will return more than $43,000 it seized from a Tampa woman at an airport after she joined a class-action lawsuit challenging the agency's practice of using civil asset forfeiture to confiscate cash from travelers.

The DEA seized $43,167 from Stacy Jones last May as she was trying to fly home to Tampa, Florida, from Wilmington, North Carolina. Jones says the cash was from the sale of a used car, as well as money she and her husband intended to take to a casino.

Jones is now a named plaintiff in a class-action civil rights lawsuit filed in January by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm. Although it is legal to fly domestically with large amounts of undeclared cash, the Institute for Justice lawsuit claims that the DEA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have a practice or policy of seizing currency from travelers at U.S. airports without probable cause simply if the dollar amount is greater than $5,000. This practice, the suit argues, violates travelers' Fourth Amendment rights.

In a Nov. 12 letter to Jones' attorney, the DEA announced it would be returning all of Jones' money.

"Getting my money back is a big relief, but DEA never should have taken it in the first place," Jones said in an Institute for Justice press release. "In going through this nightmare, I found out that I'm not the only innocent American who has been treated this way. I hope that my continuing lawsuit will end the government's practice of treating people flying with cash like criminals."

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police and prosecutors can seize property when that property is suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is never charged or convicted of a crime. Law enforcement groups say the practice allows them to disrupt organized crime, like drug trafficking, by targeting its illicit proceeds. 

However, civil liberties groups say civil asset forfeiture has too few procedural protections for property owners and creates perverse incentives for police to seize cash based on mere suspicion. 

Reasonreported on Jones' case in September, when she joined the class-action suit as a plaintiff:

After flying from Tampa to North Carolina for a casino reopening last May, Stacy Jones and her husband had dinner with friends, who were interested in buying a car the couple owned. They paid for it in cash. When the couple had to cut their trip short because of a death in the family, Jones put that money, along with cash she had for gambling, in a carry-on bag and headed for the airport in Wilmington, never considering the possibility that she was about to be robbed of $43,000 by the DEA.

A local sheriff's deputy, alerted to the presence of seizable cash by TSA screeners, grilled Jones and her husband about the money and deemed their explanation fishy, even after he called their friend, who confirmed the car purchase but was unable to say exactly how many miles were on the odometer. The deputy called in two DEA agents, who interrogated the couple some more and then announced that they were seizing the money based on their suspicion that it was related to drug trafficking.

One of the other named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Terrence Rolin, a 79-year-old retired railroad engineer, had his life savings of $82,373 seized by the DEA after his daughter, Rebecca Brown, tried to take it on a flight out of Pittsburgh with the intent of depositing it in a bank. After the case went public, the DEA returned the money.

In 2016, a USA Todayinvestigation found the DEA seized more than $209 million from at least 5,200 travelers in 15 major airports over the previous decade.

A 2017 report by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General found that the DEA seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of drug activity over the previous decade, but $3.2 billion of those seizures were never connected to any criminal charges.

"We are glad that Stacy will get her money back, but it is shameful that federal agents keep targeting innocent flyers at our nation's airports," Institute for Justice senior attorney Dan Alban said. "We are going to keep fighting to end TSA's and DEA's unconstitutional and unlawful practices of seizing people and their cash without reasonable suspicion or probable cause."

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DEA Airport Cash Seizure

Each year there are millions of dollars seized from persons arriving or departing from the United States by Customs. Much of this is due to people failing to complete a currency reporting form if they are carrying over $10,000.00. Customs estimates ninety-five percent of the money seized is forfeited to the Government as people do not retain legal representation and fight for a refund.

How is a Person Targeted for DEA Airport Cash Seizure?

The DEA airport cash seizure was designed to combat the drug trade. The DEA agents will target travelers who are showing behavior patterns consistent with carrying large amounts of cash or narcotics. They claim these patterns are repeated with those they have found to be smugglers of these materials. The problem with this tactic is that it spreads a wide net, which captures a lot of innocent people.

Behaviors the DEA claims are consistent with those smuggling large sums of money or narcotics are:

  • They only buy a one-way ticket
  • They only buy a ticket for one way only on the same day they are traveling or within 72 hours of their travel
  • The travel is from or to a legal marijuana state
  • They buy their ticket with cash
  • The person purchasing the ticket has a previous criminal record
  • The traveler is male, and between the ages of 18 to 40

The purchase of a ticket for only one direction is the first red flag sent out to the DEA. The red flag goes even higher if the ticket is to Colorado or California. These travelers are targeted by the DEA due to a lot of marijuana traffickers carry with them large sums of cash when going into either Colorado or California. The money is used to buy marijuana in these states, and then drive back to their original or home state by using rental cars.

The most common target for DEA is the male traveler who has purchased a one-way ticket and is between 18 and 40 years of age. If their destination is to a marijuana state, and they have a criminal history, especially for drug-related offenses, it is almost certain that the DEA will stop and question them.

The one-way ticket clue is not a valid one as many people have a good reason to buy a ticket in only one direction. If they sold one-way tickets only to those involved in drug trafficking, wouldn’t they then be illegal to sell? The reality is, the DEA is seizing millions from people without reasonable evidence to support their actions. With few people fighting these actions, billions of dollars are gained by the government because no one stops them.

Civil asset forfeiture statutes have taken away a lot of the procedural safeguards, which most Americans enjoy in civil cases. There is also less protection given to third parties than are typically delivered in criminal cases. If you feel your constitutional rights have been ignored during a DEA airport cash seizure, you should contact Asset Forfeiture Attorney immediately to protect those rights.

Where are Most Cash Seizures Carried Out?

The bulk of cash seizures happen at major airports such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, New York, Miami, Charlotte, and Dallas. DEA and Homeland Security are the most common federal law enforcement agencies which will perform seizures on domestic airline flights.

When a person travels through an airport, they are often distracted with the various details involving their trip. If a DEA agent approaches and begins to ask questions, they may feel they are obligated to consent to a search or may provide answers to questions the DEA can find incriminating. The DEA has been given the power to perform random search operations and questioning at the airports. They occasionally may seize cash they think you are using to commit a crime.

The DEA has been given the power to seize cash if they have reason to believe the circumstances you are carrying it is questionable. They have this power in the airports and virtually any public place, even your home, if they’ve obtained a warrant.

The Border Protection Agency and US Customs are also allowed to seize cash at border crossings if they have reason to believe its use is questionable. One fact to remember when you are traveling over the borders, or in an airport is it is allowable to carry currency with you. There is no limit to the amount allowed to take in or out of the United States. You are; however,  expected to report the cash if the amount is over $10,000.00.

The State Police are also allowed to seize your cash. In these cases, the money if often turned over to the federal government for a kickback under the equitable sharing program between the agencies. The seizure will then be handled under the federal government guidelines.

Difference Between Forfeiture and Seizure of Airport Cash

If the government seizes your cash or property, they are taking possession of it. When the government forfeits cash or property, they are taking ownership of it. If this has happened to your cash or property, you want to contact an Asset Forfeiture Attorney to protect your rights.

If the government takes ownership of your cash through forfeiture, they will then deposit it into the Asset Forfeiture Fund, which is managed by the Department of Justice. Before they are allowed to keep your money, though, they must allow you the chance to file a claim. This filing of a claim is Due Process, and it is divided into two categories:

  • Judicial Forfeiture
  • Administrative Forfeiture

Routinely, the U.S. Government will take property or cash from individuals under the Asset Forfeiture laws, and many citizens do not understand their rights under this process. Judicial Forfeiture does not involve criminal convictions, yet it is a powerful tool used by law officials and Federal Agencies. The Judicial Forfeiture is the process of forfeiture, which takes place in the court system. The Government will begin by filing a civil forfeiture lawsuit in the courts.

The Administrative Forfeiture is a system handled in-house at a government office. There is no judge present as it is not a court proceeding, and there are no pleadings or other court procedures, including rules of evidence. The Administrative Forfeiture is resource-efficient, fast, and cost-effective.

Administrative forfeiture is when the property is seized, but no one comes forward to claim or contest the seizure. The cash or property can then be administratively forfeited. If the seizure would be contested, the U.S. Government would then file either criminal or civil judicial proceedings to gain ownership or title to the property.

Notice of Seizure by DEA

Due Process begins with notice in every case. Due Process informs people that they can take action as their rights are being affected. Every time the DEA at the airport seizes airport cash, they are required to send Notice of Seizure to all the parties involved. This notice will inform them of the seizure, and allow them a chance to file a claim for its return.

Involved parties would consist of any person or entity that can claim they have a legal right to the cash or the seized asset. Involved persons can include lien holders, property owners, or anyone with a legal right to the property or cash. Under 18 U.S.C 983(a)(1))A), the Government has sixty days from the date they seized your money at the airport to send you the Seizure Notice. If a local or state law official takes your cash or property, they have ninety days to notify you.

If you are not sent a Seizure Notice and were given no extension of time, the Government has to return your money to you. This rule does not apply to contraband or other illegal property; you have no legal right to carry.

The Government does not have to send a notice if they file a suit of Civil Forfeiture  within the sixty or ninety-day limit. Once a Civil Forfeiture lawsuit is filed, this Administrative Forfeiture process will terminate, and the Judicial Forfeiture process will start.

What Happens to Money the DEA Seized at Airport?

If your cash has been seized at the airport by DEA, it is accounted for by them, and then held in escrow by the United States Treasury. They will keep possession until the final order of forfeiture. You will be notified by first-class certified mail at the address you provide the DEA at the time of the seizure regarding the forfeiture process.

It can take up to ninety days for the letter to be received, and you and your attorney have thirty days to respond to the notice.

How to File a Claim to Receive DEA Airport Seized Cash Back

If the Government has not filed a Civil Forfeiture lawsuit and sends the notice of seizure within the correct time limit, you have thirty-five days from the date on the notice to file a claim for the property or cash being returned to you. If you miss the thirty-five-day window to file, the Government can then administratively forfeit the money, and keep it.

Getting the notice can be a bit confusing, and having legal counsel assist with this process will ensure a more positive outcome for you. The most crucial step is to get a court hearing to defend your property, by filing an Administrative Claim on time. You may be required to post a cost bond at this point.

The CAFRA (Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000) did away or outlawed most of the bonds in these proceedings. Seizures involving US Customs still may require a cost bond, which would be equal to ten percent of the property’s value when you file your claim. If you are unable to pay the bond or do not have assets, you may be granted a waiver of the cost bond. When you receive your forfeiture notice, it will state on the document if a bond is required or not.

If you pay the bond, it does not work like a bail bond, and it does not get your property returned. The cost bond is just a way to pay the costs for the government seizing your property and holding it. If you and your attorney are able to prove your legal right to this property or cash, you may get the full amount of the bond returned. The return of bond money is a decision made by the judge presiding over your case. If you lose your case, only a portion of the money will be returned.

When you receive the notice to file your claim, you must read the forfeiture notice carefully. This claim has to be a sworn statement and must identify your interests in the property. You must indicate if you are the owner, co-owner, or what your exact connection is to the cash or property in question. The notice may also give you the option of filing a Petition for Remission or Mitigation.

The Petition for Remission or Mitigation is an option offered instead of paying the bond and making a claim. It is a decision by the agency that seized your cash or property that they are willing to give it back to you without a hearing and no appeal process. This option is quite rare but should be taken if offered.

If you go ahead with the filing of a claim, it must be completed within thirty-five days. The Government is given ninety days to do one of the following:

  • They can return the cash or property to you
  • They can now file a suit for Civil Forfeiture in civil court
  • They can file criminal charges, which will contain a belief that the property or cash is subject to forfeiture. If the Government chooses this option, they will have to show, without a doubt, that your property or cash is subject to forfeiture

When is Seized Cash by DEA at Airport Subject to Forfeiture?

The government will have to prove your cash or property is subject to forfeiture by one of two ways:

  • You have earned it by committing a crime
  • It will be used to commit a crime

The purpose behind the Civil Forfeiture system is to allow you the chance to force the Government into proving one or both of the above statements. They will have to prove one or both of these conditions exist with your relationship to the cash or property. An Asset Forfeiture Attorney will defend these challenges set forth by the Government’s allegations. We will question the reliability and strength of their evidence and prove you have the right to have this property returned.

Defense Against DEA Airport Cash Seizure

When you work with the Asset Forfeiture Attorney, we help prove one or more defense strategies:

  • The Search and Seizure was illegal
  • There was an unlawful interrogation used
  • You are an innocent owner of the cash or property
  • The fines imposed are excessive
  • Lack of Nexus Defense
  • The Statute of Limitations has been violated
  • The cash or property is from a legitimate source
  • The cash or property will be used legitimately
  • The K-9 evidence is unreliable
  • Character evidence is inadmissible

Other defense strategies could include you did not know or did not give your consent for any money or property to be used illegally. There are also situations where the Government takes too long to file a case or bring it to trial. If you can prove a delay was excessive or unjustified, you may win and have the return of your cash or property. Your Asset Forfeiture Attorney will review your case with you and determine the best course of action in setting up a defense.

Will the Government Return DEA Seized Airport Cash?

How much of the money the Government will return that has been seized by the DEA at the airport, depends on how weak or how strong their case is against you. It could be proven there was no cause for a search of your belongings, that the search was illegal. If this is established, the Government’s case is weak, and the judge could rule all amounts to be returned. Having experienced legal representation is critical in helping to defend your rights to your property or cash.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office generally prefers to settle cases out of court, and they typically try to settle for low dollar amounts. Your attorney has to be prepared to go to court and fight for your rights and stay with the claim to the end. Asset Forfeiture Attorney is ready for this fight and knows how hard to push a case to get the resolution you deserve.

How Long Can a Case Take After DEA Seizure of Cash?

It can take several years or a few months with a forfeiture case. These cases are complex and will require having an attorney working with you that understands the laws and court system surrounding these complicated laws.

Find Help Near Me for DEA Airport Cash Seizure

If you have been a victim of DEA airport cash seizure, you will need experienced legal representation to protect your rights and your money. Call Asset Forfeiture Attorney at 888-571-5590 as soon as possible to ensure all legal avenues in your case are covered. We are here to help you recover seized assets or forfeited property in either a civil or criminal case.


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