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U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents conducting southbound operations at the El Paso port of entry seized $52,072 in unreported currency on December 3. The cash was hidden in a box of laundry detergent.
The seizure was made at the Bridge of the Americas international crossing at approximately 5:00 a.m. when a 1996 Chevrolet Lumina attempted to leave the U.S. for Mexico. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents conducting southbound inspections stopped the vehicle and initiated an exam. During the search, they located a box of laundry detergent which appeared to have been tampered with. They opened the box and found five vacuum sealed plastic bags of currency hidden inside.
CBP officers took custody of the driver, 36-year-old Edgar Lopez Chavez, a citizen of Mexico residing in Aurora. Colorado. He was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations special agents to face federal prosecution. He is currently being held without bond at the El Paso County jail.
“Every dollar that we seize is one less dollar available for criminal organizations to further their illicit activities,” said Hector Mancha, CBP El Paso port director. “The persistent presence of CBP officers and Border Patrol agents checking the flow of southbound goods and people are generating important enforcement activity regularly.”
Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S. However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP. Failure to report may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest. An individual may petition for the return of currency seized by CBP officers, but the petitioner must prove that the source and intended use of the currency was legitimate.
While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of CBP, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission, result in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.