The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency typically focuses on illegal items entering the country. Their goal is to identify and restrict items that may pose a threat to the safety or well-being of its citizens, such as drugs, weapons or counterfeit products. However, agents in Florida and elsewhere also have their eyes open for contraband on its way out of the country, whether by air, water or highways. This often involves U.S. currency.
It makes sense that the government would want to seize large amounts of money crossing the border into other countries. The fear is that those transporting the money will launder it or use it to fund illegal drug operations or terrorist activity. Often, however, those carrying the money are ordinary citizens who do not realize they must officially report when they are crossing U.S. borders with more than $10,000.
Search and seizure
Recently CBP agents stopped a commercial bus with two drivers and six passengers leaving the United States and headed to Mexico. The agents apparently randomly selected the bus for inspection, during which time a canine trained in currency and firearms detection alerted to the presence of contraband. Agents reported that, using a special X-ray device, they detected irregularities in the wall behind the bus’s restroom. They claim to have seized 14 bundles containing nearly $500,000 in cash.
It is not illegal to carry U.S. money into or out of the country. However, it is a violation to do so without completing the proper forms and reporting the presence of the currency to agents. When agents seize money, it is possible to petition for its return, but it is a difficult and complex process.