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How Does Border Patrol Handle Cash Smuggling?

How Does Border Patrol Handle Cash Smuggling?


The United States Border Patrol plays a significant role in preventing illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and cash smuggling. While many people are aware of border patrols seizing illegal drugs, cash smuggling is a lesser-known aspect of their work. Cash smuggling refers to the method of smuggling large sums of money across international borders without declaring it to customs.

In recent years, cash smuggling has become a significant concern for the United States government and Border Patrol. According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the amount of currency seized along the U.S. borders totaled $181 million in 2018, which is an increase of over 28% from the previous year.

This article will provide an in-depth look at how the Border Patrol handles cash smuggling and how they tackle this illegal activity.

What is Cash Smuggling?

Cash smuggling is the illegal transportation of currency across international borders without going through customs. Smuggling cash is a serious problem because of its potential use in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, terrorism financing, and money laundering. The United States Border Patrol officers are tasked with identifying and seizing cash that is illegally smuggled into or out of the country.

The most common method used for cash smuggling is to pack the cash in large suitcases, carry-on bags, or hidden compartments in vehicles. Cash smugglers often use private cars, buses, or planes to transport the cash.

How Does Border Patrol Identify Cash Smuggling?

To identify cash smuggling, Border Patrol officers use a combination of intelligence, experience, and technology. They also conduct risk assessments, which involve analyzing the information provided by travelers and their behaviors, such as nervousness and inconsistency in their stories.

In airports and other ports of entry, Border Patrol officers will use X-ray machines, metal detectors, and other screening technologies to detect the cash. For vehicles, they use specially trained canines, which can detect the scent of cash. Additionally, Border Patrol agents are trained to recognize unusual travel patterns and suspicious behavior that may indicate cash smuggling.

Furthermore, Border Patrol cooperates with other government agencies, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to stop cash smuggling. The CBP utilizes the Currency and Monetary Instrument Reporting (CMIR) system, which requires travelers to declare cash amounts of $10,000 or more upon entry into the country. This system serves an important role in detecting and preventing cash smuggling, as border patrol agents are immediately notified of a traveler who declares $10,000 or more.

Consequences of Cash Smuggling

Cash smuggling is a serious offense in the United States. Individuals caught smuggling cash face civil and criminal penalties, including seizure of the cash, fines, and possible incarceration. Under the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act of 1970 (CFTRA), all cash and monetary instruments entering or leaving the country must be declared to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

If a traveler fails to declare their cash, or falsely declares its value, they may face additional charges, such as fraudulent statement or oath, which is a federal crime. Since the United States is part of the Egmont Group, a global organization of financial intelligence units working to combat money laundering and terrorist financing activities, information on cash smugglers can be shared with other countries.

Furthermore, the United States government may use a portion of the seized funds for law enforcement purposes, such as supporting border security or combating drug trafficking.

Border Patrol Success Stories

The Border Patrol has had many successful cases in stopping cash smuggling. In 2012, a driver was stopped along the Arizona-Mexico border and was found to be transporting $376,000 in hidden compartments within his vehicle. The suspect had wrapped the cash in aluminum foil to avoid detection from X-ray machines. In another case in 2016, a woman was caught smuggling $49,000 in cash hidden in her purse at a border checkpoint in Texas.

These are just two of many similar incidents where Border Patrol has successfully prevented illegal cash smuggling.


Cash smuggling poses a significant threat to the United States and its efforts to combat illegal drug trafficking, terrorist financing, and money laundering. Border Patrol plays a critical role in detecting and deterring the flow of illegal cash across international borders.

Through intelligence, experience, and technology, Border Patrol agents are trained to identify cash smuggling and take appropriate actions. Failure to declare cash amounting to $10,000 or more constitutes illegal smuggling, and anyone caught may face severe consequences, including the seizure of the cash, fines, and possible incarceration.

The Border Patrol has been successful in many cases in stopping cash smuggling, but it is an ongoing battle against individuals who seek to exploit gaps in law enforcement. In conclusion, it is important to recognize the critical work of Border Patrol agents in preventing cash smuggling and the vital role they play in safeguarding the United States.

The USA border patrol commonly find illegal items on both illegal immigrants and United States citizens attempting to cross the USA border. One of the most common things found by the USA border patrol is large quantities of drugs: Cocaine, Marijuana, & Methamphetamine

Traffic stops, checkpoints, and inspection stations are common security measures utilized in order to apprehend individuals attempting to smuggle drugs, money, and at times, human beings across the USA border. In fact, an individual will in many cases attempt to cross the USA border and be subjected to many of these checkpoints; such was the case when an individual was apprehended with over $18,000 of unverified cash.

In many cases, the USA border control K9 unit was an imperative part of this arrest. Not only are the USA border patrol trained dogs able to pinpoint drug locations on people and in cars, no matter how camouflaged, but they are also able to pick up the scent of money.

After the amount of money was found on one of the individuals, a quick check by the USA border patrol determined that the two individuals had extensive criminal backgrounds. This is not uncommon when finding drugs or large amounts of unverified currency on individuals attempting to cross the USA border.

However, the USA border patrol was still forced to let the two suspects leave since they had no drugs in their possession. However, the USA border patrol did seize the unverified cash, since the individuals could not prove that it was obtained in a legal manner.

Crossing the USA border for criminals does not always result in their serving time in jail, although the USA border patrol will almost definitely seize the funds that are found. The smuggling of cash across the USA Border presents specific concerns to border patrol agents due to the suspected illicit activities that funded the large amounts of cash. Recent violence around the border exacerbates this concern as many prominent and dangerous gang members traffic weapons and drugs over the border.

It should also be mentioned that, although these individuals who the USA border patrol apprehended had criminal records, they had no outstanding warrants. Had the two individuals held prior criminal records, the USA border patrol would have had the legal right to detain them.