Bank accounts are more frequently being frozen or seized by the Federal Government. The typical allegation by the Federal Government is that the money in those bank accounts were the proceeds of money laundering. Often, the owners of the seized bank accounts were somehow connected to shipping cargo to, receiving cargo from, or doing business with Colombia. The owners of the seized bank accounts then typically receive a letter from U.S. Customs and Border Protection advising of the seizure, and the procedure to attempt to get the money back.
Money laundering typically means that the money in the bank account was seized because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) believes it was generated from the sale of illegal drugs. ICE refers to this type of financial crime as “Trade-Based Money Laudering.” So, for example, if a company in Colombia received money from the sale of drugs, and then purchased some merchandise from a U.S. company, and paid that U.S. company, the money received by the U.S. company could be seized as the proceeds of certain unlawful activity set forth in the money laundering law at 18 U.S.C. 1956. The allegation of money laundering is sometimes accompanied by an allegation of filing a false shipper’s export declaration or Automated Export System (AES) with U.S. Customs, in violation of 15 CFR section 30.7.
Persons who, or companies which have their bank accounts frozen or seized are entitled to know the reasons for such a severe action by the Federal Government. They are also entitled to challenge the actions by the Federal Government through the administrative petition process with U.S. Customs and Border Protection or by going to Federal Court. Legitimate business persons whose bank accounts have been frozen or seized by ICE or through a Seizure Warrant should contact a knowledgeable attorney to pursue having their money returned to them promptly.