Why You Should Never Travel With Cash Through a US Airport
There are many good reasons why you might want to travel with cash. However, if you’re travelling in the US, even on a domestic flight you’re more likely to be robbed by US government agents than by any petty criminals.
Thousands of travellers carrying cash have been targeted by Homeland Security agents in recent years. More often than not the cash is seized by the government, even when the travellers have innocent explanations.
There is no law against carrying cash either domestically or internationally. International travellers must declare amounts of over $10,000 when travelling to the US. Other than that anybody can travel with cash. There are no legal restrictions on the amount, although the remainder of this article will convince you that it’s a bad idea to travel with cash.
$27,600 Seized From Innocent Traveller
Cody James was aware that it was perfectly legal to travel with cash when he was travelling to Houston, Texas from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. While he was having a beer, waiting for his flight he was approached by 2 homeland security agents with sniffer dogs who wanted to search his bag. The agents found the $27,600 he had been carrying with him and seized it.
This was despite him explaining why he was carrying it. James was going through a divorce so didn’t want to leave any money in his bank account. He’d also considered buying a car when he was in Charlotte. This made no difference to the agents, who seized the cash anyway. Lawyers fees to attempt to retrieve the money would likely be more than the amount that was seized. For Cody James it was a bad idea to travel with cash.
The US vs $115,413 – The US Government Lists Seized Cash as The Defendant
In June 2020 Ramon Lyon was travelling from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to California. He was on his way to California to buy some Fish Tables for his gaming business from a supplier there. Lyon was carrying more than $115,000 in cash to complete the purchase.
Unfortunately for him the cash was seized by Homeland Security before he got off the ground.
The officers interviewing Lyon admitted that even although his story may well be legitimate that they were going to seize the cash anyway. They then pressured him to sign the cash over to the US government to avoid a more extensive investigation into his business and bank accounts.
Have a look at part of the interview here:
Lyon said “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” recalling his thoughts when he was told his cash was being seized.
In October 2020 a US attorney filed a case, not against Lyon but against $115,413. Yes the cash was actually listed as the defendant on the US governments court documents.
The document states:
“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”
You can see the document here.
If We See Cash, We Will Seize It
According to Institute for Justice attorney Dan Alban the policy of the US government is: if we see cash, we will seize it.
Albans firm has launched a class action lawsuit against the government representing thousands of people who’ve had cash seized at US airports. The government has never charged any of these people with crimes despite seizing their cash and despite there being no law in existence against travelling with cash.
“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 have to charge those folks with a crime. They don’t have to get a conviction on court, they can just accuse the person of having some involvement with drug activity, and they keep their cash forever.”
Travelling through any airport you have no privacy whatsoever. Only travel with items and cash you’re prepared to lose. That’s the reality of travel nowadays. In particular, when travelling through US airports be prepared to have any unusually large amount of cash seized with almost no way to recover it.
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