Customs steals $41K from nurse


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Theft by government: When a nurse decided to bring $41K in cash savings to Nigeria to open a medical clinic there, U.S. Customs decided it wanted the money instead and simply stole it.

The questioning threw her off guard. She explained she had legally earned the money and she was alone. Nwaorie, who lives in Katy, Tex., became a U.S. citizen since 1994. She showed her passport, thinking perhaps they were questioning her legal status. The agents took her to a room to search her and her luggage anyway.

Then they seized all $41,377 dollars. “It was like I was a criminal,” she said. “I felt so humiliated, so petrified, too. They were talking among themselves, saying how ‘this is how people smuggle money out of the country. This is how they do it.’”

More than six months later, Customs and Border Protection still has not given back her money.

This, despite the fact that the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of Texas did not bring a civil asset forfeiture case against her or charge her with any crime. The infraction she committed was failing to declare the money to Customs before traveling. According to the agency’s website, “there is no limit on the amount of money that can be taken out” of the country, but if a traveler is carrying more than $10,000 in currency they must fill out a declaration, a rule she said she did not know existed.

Read the article. It illustrates once again the power-hungry and corrupt nature of the federal government. For example, Nwaorie’s suit to get her money back states,

According to documents provided to The Post, prosecutors declined to pursue a case against Nwaorie. The lawsuit states that under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, the government should have been required to “promptly release” Nwaorie’s $41,000 to her, no questions asked. Alban contends that forcing a person to agree not to sue the government — and to pay the government’s legal fees if CBP has to enforce the agreement in court — is an “unconstitutional condition.”

Apparently, despite a law that requires them to return the money immediately if no charges are brought, Customs is still refusing to give it back. This is more evidence that government agencies are increasingly willing to nonchalantly ignore the law, when they wish to.

I think some of these government officials should face prison.

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19 comments

  • LCB

    This has been going on for at least 20 years. Many years ago, when I still watched 60 Minutes, they did a report on a black gentleman that owned a landscaping business. He was flying from Dallas to Houston to purchase shrubbery and was carrying $20 Grand. He was black. He looked like a working man. And he’d bought a one way ticket because he was going to rent a truck to bring the shrubbery back to Dallas. They took his $20,000 and he as far as I know he never got it back.

    Apparently the asset forfeiture laws just don’t apply to airports because of…of…mmm…of…TERRORISM! Yeah, that’s it. Or…DRUGISM!!! Or whatever ‘ism is the catechism of the day!!!

  • Rich Cregar

    An old friend, now retired, was the Chief of Police in a smallish Midwestern city. He attended a seminar on use of the asset forfeiture laws a few years back. He learned from that seminar that he had the power to destroy the life of anyone he chose within his jurisdiction through the application of these laws and never face any consequences as a result.
    These laws have never been repealed. I don’t even hear talk of repeal. As I have asked in a previous post; where is the ACLU & other alleged civil liberty groups?
    As Dr. Zhivago (Omar Sharif) famously quipped to the secret Police in the great film: “that gives you the power, not the right”

  • Ben

    Part of the problem can be gleaned from the reply above. The writer says; ‘an old friend’ but won’t state his name. He says; ‘a smallish Midwestern city’ but won’t say it’s name. Just because he is retired don’t exonerate this former Chief of police from returning the money he stole (forfeiture laws not withstanding) and, odds are, he passed on his ‘knowledge’ to others in his department to follow in his nefarious footsteps.
    When people refuse to call out others the problem continues, and usually gets worse.
    Civil liberty groups have to be contacted to know a problem exists, obviously, in order to take up the cause.

  • BSJ

    All she had to do was check the form ‘Yes’ and declare it.

    When you lie to CBP, bad things happen…

    The 4th Amendment does not apply when crossing an international border. Anything and everything can be searched.

    And for your sake, you had better not have tried to hide anything through ignorance or laziness either. Checking ‘No’ on everything thinking that will speed you transaction with CBP is a serious mistake!

  • BSJ: The point here is not that she did not declare the money, but that Customs chose in the end not to charge her with any crime. According to the law, Customs is then obliged to instantly return her money, no questions asked with no strings attached. They did not, forcing her to sue.

    This is an abuse of power. Since when are government employees allowed to flout the law, while ordinary citizens cannot?

  • BSJ

    Not declaring the money is crime enough.

  • BSJ: Since Customs did not charge this woman, no crime was committed. We are supposed to be living in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty.

    Regardless, the law here is very clear about what Customs should do if no crime is charged. The money is supposed to be returned immediately, no questions asked. They have not done so. It seems to me they are breaking the law in a far more serious manner than this poor nurse ever did.

  • BSJ

    CBP can seize the money and or charge the person that lied on the declaration form.

    Lie on the form and there will be repercussions.

    “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this report, and to the best of my knowledge and belief it is true, correct and complete.”

    https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/shared/fin105_cmir.pdf

  • BSJ

    To add.

    https://greatlakescustomslaw.com/money-seizures/failure-to-report-cash-to-customs-fincen-105/

    What are the civil or criminal penalties for failing to report cash?

    There are both civil and criminal penalties for failing to report cash violations, but not everyone is charged criminally. Your unreported cash can be seized & forfeited (lost), and you can be civilly fined without ever being found guilty of the crime of failing to report.

    The civil penalties of a failure to report are forfeiture of the money and a possible money penalty not “more than the amount of the monetary instrument for which the report was required.” In addition to the criminal penalties for a failure to report cash violation, there are also civil penalties. The amount of the civil penalty will not be greater than the amount involved in the transaction, and that amount shall be reduced by the amount of any money forfeited. In addition, the violator will probably experience searches, detentions, questioning, and possible seizures when traveling internationally in the future. This is because a record will be generated in the databases used by Homeland Security and U.S. Customs & Border Protection for assessing international travelers.

    The criminal consequences of failing to report cash are severe. Failing to make a report or making an inaccurate report by omitting or misstating a material fact in a report includes not only forfeiture of the money, but a fine ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 and jail time from 5 to 10 years.

    Don’t lie and they won’t take your stuff!

  • BSJ: All very nice, but the fact remains that this woman was never charged with any crime. She is innocent. And the law provides that her money is to be returned immediately, no questions asked, in those circumstances. Thus, the refusal of Customs to return the money is a crime in itself, an abuse of power, and a far more egregious act then this nurse’s failure to declare her cash in leaving the country.

    Overall, I find it interesting that you seem much more outraged by what appears to be an innocent mistake by a nurse then by the deliberate theft of her money by government officials.

  • Edward

    BSJ wrote: “Not declaring the money is crime enough.

    So, why then is due process ignored? Are you advocating the punishment should be applied without any due process? Because that is what has happened here and in many asset forfeiture cases.

    Abuse of the legal system through the asset forfeiture laws is not only easy, it seems to be common. The motivation can be that this travesty is a revenue source (profit center) for the local government, or it can be more sinister.

    One story I read was an auto repair shop was raided and the owner’s antique car was confiscated. The car was sold at auction without any due process performed to ensure that the owner had in fact done wrong, which has become the standard operating procedure for asset forfeiture. One of the officers in the raid had a brother-in-law who was an antique car collector, and the in-law placed the winning bid at the auction, which was also the only bid. Prosecutors never filed any charges nor did the police accuse the repair shop owner with any crime. Although everyone thought something nefarious had occurred, no one could or would do anything about it.

    Before asset forfeiture, We the People relished that we did not live in a country where such corrupt injustices could occur. Now they occur daily throughout the country.

  • mike shupp

    Blink. Blink. Blink. Am I missing something here?

    Granted it’s been a few years since I took a flight anywhere, but I can’t recall ever being asked to declare that I had cash in my pockets before boarding a plane. Is there something wrong with me in that I can’t understand how this is now an absolute necessity?

  • Rich Cregar

    Ben: My friend never participated in a Civil forfeiture. My point, which I probably didn’t make forcefully enough, was that he was deeply troubled by the power he, as a law enforcement official, was being given by these laws. He realized that these laws are wrong. I assure you that if he had ever been a part of an unjust Civil Forfeiture I would be the first to unmask him and his Department.

  • wayne

    In related news, on a more positive note– The Michigan House just passed a Bill, tightening up on asset-seizure.
    If it gets signed, you have to actually be convicted or plead out, before they (Michigan) can just keep your money & stuff. (This doesn’t apply however, if they pass your case off to the Feds, who will just take everything, and make you prove it’s not ill-gotten money.)
    http://blog.tenthamendmentcenter.com/2018/05/michigan-house-passes-bill-to-reform-civil-asset-forfeiture-federal-loophole-remains/

  • wayne

    Glenn Frey –
    “Smuggler’s Blues”
    (the Miami Vice cut 1984)
    https://youtu.be/LSXKyHM133c
    5:39

    “The sailors and pilots, the soldiers and the law,
    The pay-offs and the rip-offs and the things nobody saw.
    No matter if it’s heroin, cocaine, or hash,
    You’ve got to carry weapons, ’cause you always carry cash.

    There’s lots of shady characters, lots of dirty deals,
    Ev’ry name’s an alias, in case somebody squeals.
    It’s the lure of easy money, it’s got a very strong appeal….”

  • Edward

    mike shupp asked: “Blink. Blink. Blink. Am I missing something here?

    Perhaps you are missing that this was an international flight (“at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport“), not domestic.

  • BSJ

    Outrage? I’m not outraged at all. I’m merely stating facts.

    It’s you guys crying outrage about “weak” border security. So this is what you get. Jack booted thugs being Jack booted thugs.

    And she is hardly innocent. She lied on the declaration form. “Your unreported cash can be seized & forfeited (lost), and you can be civilly fined without ever being found guilty of the crime of failing to report.” The easily avoidable ‘Stupid Tax’ she paid is 100%.

    What part of this are you law and order guys missing here? Or are you just picking and choosing what laws you like and which ones you think you can ignore?

    But hey Bob, you seem to be a sucker for fake news, so be outraged by this story all you want. It’s still fake news. How outraged would you be is she were Shia and had been flying to Iran?

    Seizure of undeclared funds at the border has absolutely nothing to do with asset forfeitures that you are speaking of Edward. RICO and the War on Drugs are responsible for that subject.

    Mike, the War on Terror has stolen many of our rights. Not getting searched before you leave the country is one of them.

    And Nigeria is a “Drug source” country with a strong IS presence. So they pay extra attention to people going to and coming from there. Especially if they have large bundles of undeclared cash…

    Reap what you sow.

  • BSJ: The one fact you seem to continue to ignore is that this woman was never charged or convicted of a crime. You seem to think that you (and the government) can declare her guilty, without a trial, a jury, or any due process.

    When she is found guilty of the crime, then the government can keep the money. That Customs chose not to charge her means she remains innocent, and therefore, according to the law, Customs must return her money, no questions asked. Customs continues to refuse to do so, in direct violation of the law.

    I should not have to keep repeating this. We are supposed to be a country where we are all considered innocent until proven guilty. You seem to have forgotten this.

  • Edward

    BSJ,

    We are not missing any part of the law, we know the law, and we know that it is being violated. We also know that asset forfeiture, which is what this is despite what you say, avoids the constitutionally protected right to due process. This means that we have every right to disagree with this unconstitutional law and the tyrannical way in which it is implemented. Not all laws are good laws, and just because it is a law does not mean that we cannot disagree with it.

    The War on Drugs laws were followed in this case, otherwise there would have been an indictment, or at the very least an accusation. War on Terror laws also do not apply to this case. Since she was leaving the country, border security laws also do not apply. Since there is no hint of racketeering, RICO laws do not apply.

    You seem to be getting into topics that do not apply. This just distracts you from the actual arguments, which is probably why you do not understand why we are upset about this injustice. Literally an injustice, since no due process has occurred to ensure justice has been upheld.

    Without due process, BSJ, what is the difference between what happened to this lady and theft?

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