Even by MIA smuggling standards, this scheme was over the top: A chair cushion stuffed with almost $500,000 in cash was uncovered by customs officers during an inspection as it was being shipped to the Dominican Republic, authorities said Wednesday.
U.S. Custom and Border Protection officers seized the stacks of cash that were hidden in the bottom of a furniture crate at Miami International Airport nearly a week ago.
CBP officers said the exact amount totaled $491,280 in unreported U.S. currency. A failure to report cash in excess of $10,000 that is being exported from the United States is a violation of federal currency reporting requirements. No one was arrested, but the money now belongs to the U.S. government.
“Criminal organisations will attempt to export large sums of cash to launder their ill-gotten gains,” said Robert Del Toro, CBP’s Acting Port Director at Miami International Airport. “This is a significant seizure and represents the impact we can make on criminal’s profits and was the direct result of our officer’s vigilance and watchfulness.”
It is legal to carry large sums of currency into or out of the United States. However, federal law requires that travelers who possess $10,000 or more in currency or other monetary instruments must report it all to a CBP officer at the airport, seaport, or land border crossing when entering or leaving the country.
Customs and Border Protection uses a variety of techniques to intercept narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products. On a typical day, CBP seizes an average of about $207,000 in unreported or illicit currency along the nation’s borders.
So far this year, CBP officers have seized $2.4 million in illicit cash in Florida, including half that total at Miami International Airport, according to agency spokesman Zachary Mann. (Text, excluding headline, courtesy Miami Herald)