13 Arrested, $2.6 Million Seized In Reverse Smuggling Crackdown
MIAMI (AP) _ A teddy bear stuffed with money, bags of cash and gold, tin cans with gold chips inside and cash-filled candy bars were among the items snagged by U.S. Customs agents in a crackdown on smuggling by travelers leaving the United States.
The May crackdown, the first such reverse customs operation since 1983, was designed to stem the tide of illegaly exported cash from the United States, said Leon Guinn, agent in charge of the Miami Customs office.
A total of $3.4 million was seized nationwide, $2.6 million of it in Miami. As with cash taken from incoming passengers, agents said they believed much of the Miami haul was drug-related.
″We can attack narcotics traffickers through seizure of funds necessary to maintain their operations,″ said Guinn.
Guinn said the Miami effort also led to 13 arrests. Those arrested were charged with failure to file currency transaction reports required by the government to take large amounts of money outside the country. Most the snatched cash was bound for Colombia and Bolivia, Guinn said.
The greenbacks were hidden in containers of shampoo, foot powder, fabric softener and candy. Some cash was found in commercial cargo. Some was discovered through casual conversations between outward-bound passengers and agents posing as fellow travelers.
The agents have begun checking to see if the seizures can be linked to known drug smugglers.
The government plans to continue the crackdown. Guinn said the millions already hauled in are only a small proportion of what’s going out.
″I think we are probably only at the tip of the iceberg,″ Guinn said.
Seizures in other cities turned up $358,000 in Los Angeles; $25,000 in Dallas; $107,000 in San Juan, Puerto Rico; $31,000 in New York; $72,500 in Boston; $32,000 in San Antonio, Texas; $57,000 in San Francisco; and $12,000 in Honolulu.