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Court Lets Government Confiscate $145,000 Seized At Airport

October 3, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today let stand the government’s confiscation of more than $145,000 in cash from a man who tried to sneak the money out of the country to Nigeria.

The justices, without comment, refused to hear Joseph Efiong Etim’s arguments that forfeiture of the money violated his rights.

His appeal relied on a 1993 Supreme Court ruling that said some forfeitures can violate the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines.

The cash was seized from Etim at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 3, 1990, after he had boarded a plane for Lagos, Nigeria.

Etim pleaded guilty to willfully failing to file a report while knowingly transporting more than $10,000 in cash outside the United States.

The cash was concealed in boxes of flour.

Etim was sentenced to five months in prison and fined $5,000.

Federal prosecutors then sought forfeiture of the currency, which was granted by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein.

Etim appealed, contending that the forfeiture amounted to double jeopardy - a separate punishment for the same crime - and an excessive fine barred by the Eighth Amendment.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 vote last February, upheld the forfeiture.

The case is Etim vs. U.S., 93-1932.

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