DETROIT, MI — Federal agents seized thousands of dollars from a woman at an airport because she didn’t tell them how much she had. Now the government seeks to keep the cash seizure, without placing a criminal charge against the woman.
This was the situation for 78-year-old Victoria Faren of Clearwater, Florida. According to reports, she had recently retired and sold her house and planned to move to live with her daughter in the Philippines. The woman was then faced with the decision of how to move her money internationally.
She decided to take a dual-pronged approach. Some of the money she sent via wire transfer, and the rest she decided to transport herself when she flew over.
On April 2, 2014, Ms. Faren tried to board Delta Air Lines Flight 275 to the Philippines. At Detroit Metropolitan Airport, she was stopped at a federal checkpoint by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and scrutinized about what she, as an American citizen, was carrying out of the country.
The federal agents reacted when they discovered an alleged contradiction in the amount of money Ms. Faren declared verbally and in writing. Agents then took the opportunity to rummage through every belonging she had — including the clothes on her body — to find additional cash.
It turns out that the septuagenarian had decided to stow her cash savings throughout her luggage and even hidden within her worn garments.
She believed it would be safer to keep it hidden. Safe from thieves or government agents; whichever appeared first. But her efforts to protect her cash failed.
After finding wads of cash in her wallets and carry-on bag, the agents went so far as to remove the woman’s brassiere and girdle to find the rest. In total they seized $40,977 from the woman, which were proceeds from the recent sale of her $120,000 home.
“She stated that she did not wire the proceeds to the Philippines this time because she thought it was safer to carry the money,” according to the government’s version of events.
The federal agents decided to keep the money using a tactic known as civil asset forfeiture. The government let her go — minus her cash — without any criminal charges.
She’ll now have to fight in court to have any hope of getting her savings returned. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gjon Juncaj has already filed a “Complaint for Forfeiture” on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. The government’s intent is to permanently keep her money, just because it can.
The theft has been formalized in the Code of Federal Regulations. Americans are not allowed to freely move their money without federal government’s knowledge. Customs enforcers demand that sums of cash over $10,000 be declared with the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN form 105 points to the places where the police state criminalizes moving money.
Disclosure of this information is mandatory pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 5316 and 31 CFR Chapter X. Failure to provide all or any part of the requested information may subject the currency or monetary instruments to seizure and forfeiture, as well as subject the individual to civil and criminal liabilities.
Ms. Faren’s plight makes it all the more apparent why reforms in civil asset forfeiture — such as the currently proposed “FAIR Act” — are essential for Americans to live with liberty and justice under the federal government.