Browse Category

Investigation

Best PracticesCBPEnforcementImportInternational TradeInvestigationReasonable CareSeizuresU.S.Customs

CBP, BIS, and Other Agencies Launch A New Task Force to Combat Counterfeit Goods

posted by Jennifer Diaz March 21, 2019 0 comments

Press Release The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a press release announcing a new multi-agency task force, The Global Trade Task Force (GTTF), which is designed to protect national security and combat counterfeit goods. The multi-agency task force was launched recently in Detroit and DHS believes the task force could serve as a national model for related investigations.

Continue Reading

Best PracticesCBPCurrency SeizureInvestigationSeizures

Civil Forfeiture – Know Your Rights!

posted by Jennifer Diaz February 27, 2019 2 Comments

Sam

Routinely, individuals in the U.S. have property taken from them under “Asset Forfeiture” laws and are unaware of their rights.  Civil judicial forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction, and is a powerful legal tool used by law enforcement and Federal Agencies to seize property that is involved in a crime. Fines and forfeitures have become a key source of revenue, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The majority of federal forfeiture cases are uncontested when there is a related criminal case. Administrative forfeiture occurs when property is seized but no one files a claim to contest the seizure. Property that can be administratively forfeited includes merchandise prohibited from importation; a conveyance used to import, transport, or store a controlled substance; a monetary instrument; or other property that does not exceed $500,000 in value. Federal law imposes strict deadlines and notification requirements in the administrative forfeiture process. If the seizure is contested, then the U.S. government is required to use either criminal or civil judicial forfeiture proceedings to gain title to the property.

Continue Reading

Best PracticesCustoms BrokerImportImport AlertInternational LawInternational TradeInvestigation

Why Your Freight Forwarder MUST Segregate Hazardous Materials

posted by Jennifer Diaz November 30, 2018 0 comments

It’s important to understand why freight forwarders take certain steps prior to shipping your goods. We previously discussed why it’s important to complete a Shipper’s Letter of Instruction. Now we are addressing why your Freight Forwarder segregates your hazardous materials, even if you request otherwise. The fines for non-compliance are severe. 49 CFR 107.329 provides for the maximum civil penalty amounts. Violators that knowingly violate hazardous material transportation laws and regulations may face no more than a $78,376.00 penalty for each violation, but if the violation results in death, serious illness, severe injury to any person, or substantial destruction of property the maximum civil penalty is $182,877.00. There is no minimum civil penalty, except for a minimum civil penalty of $471 for violations relating to training. When the violation is a continuing one, each day of the violation constitutes a separate offense. Continue Reading

Best PracticesCBPImportInternational LawInvestigationU.S.Customs

Importers: If you Can’t Answer These 12 Questions on Forced Labor You’re In Trouble!

posted by Jennifer Diaz December 12, 2017 4 Comments

213210

An estimated 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery at any moment in time in 2016. This amounts to 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every thousand people in the world. Seventy three per cent of the victims of forced labor were female, and one in four victims were children. Forced labor accounted for 24.9 million people, while 15.4 million were in forced marriage.

What is the U.S. Doing About It? Continue Reading

Best PracticesInvestigationU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Essential Oils Company to Pay $760K for Lacey Act Violations

posted by Jennifer Diaz September 25, 2017 1 Comment

MONEY

The Justice Department announced YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS, L.C., (the Company), headquartered in Lehi, Utah, plead guilty in federal court to federal misdemeanor charges regarding its illegal trafficking of rosewood oil and spikenard oil in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. Continue Reading

CBPEPAImportInvestigationVehicles

VW to pay HIGHEST CBP PENALTY EVER, $1.45 Billion!

posted by Jennifer Diaz January 19, 2017 0 comments

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 11.48.28 AMOn January 11, 2017, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Attorney General announced the largest criminal and civil settlement ever against Volkswagen (VW) that totaled $4.3 billion. The breakdown of the settlement was $2.8 billion for the criminal penalty and $1.45 billion for a combined civil penalty for both the CBP and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Volkswagen agreed to plead guilty to three felony criminal counts and pay the $2.8 billion dollar penalty. The $1.45 billion combined settlement was for EPA’s “claim for civil penalties against VW in connection with VW’s importation and sale of these cars” as well as CBP’s claim for customs fraud.

CBP’s part of the $1.45 billion settlement dealt with a violation of 19 U.S.C. §1952, which “prohibits persons, by fraud, gross negligence or negligence, from entering or introducing, attempting to introduce, or aiding and abetting the entry or introduction of merchandise into the commerce of the United States, by means of statements or acts that are material and false, or by means of omissions which are material”.

Continue Reading

AD/CVDCBPDepartment of Homeland SecurityExportImportInvestigation

Now, More than Ever, Be Wary of and Responsive to a CBP Form 28!

posted by Jennifer Diaz December 22, 2016 4 Comments

rob-articleU.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), having previously identified AD/CVD evasion as priority trade issue, is ramping up its efforts to further combat AD/CVD evasion. Effective August 22, 2016, interested parties can, in addition to pursuing either a civil False Claims Act/Qui Tam Action or a criminal trade violation, now report Enforce and Protect Act (“EAPA”) violations using CBP’s e-Allegation mechanism.

Who is an Interested Party?

Interested parties qualified to use this violation reporting mechanism include:

• Foreign manufacturers, producers, exporters, or importers of covered merchandise or a trade or business association a majority of the members of which are producers, exporters, or importers of such merchandise
• Manufacturers, producers, exporters, or importers in the U.S. of a domestic like product
• A certified union or recognized union group of workers that is representative of an industry engaged in the manufacture, production or wholesale of a domestic like product in the U.S.
• A trade or business association a majority of the members of which manufacture, produce, or wholesale a domestic like product in the U.S.
• If covered merchandise is a processed agricultural product, a coalition or trade union that is representative of processors, processors and producers, or processors and growers Continue Reading

Best PracticesBISCBPExportFreight ForwardingInvestigationOFACSpeaking

Export Penalties Already Total $184 MILLION in 2014 – Want to Learn Who, What, Why & How to Stay Compliant?

posted by Jennifer Diaz April 23, 2014 0 comments
img2
 
Within just the first nine weeks of 2014, almost $182 million dollars in penalties have been assessed against companies for OFAC and ITAR export violations.  Within those same nine weeks alone, companies have been ordered to pay the Department of Treasury almost $25 million dollars more than was ordered in all of 2013. Simply put, compliance is critical, and non-compliance is costly!
 
Don’t miss this update on export enforcement actions stemming from a busy 2013 and start of 2014. 
Best PracticesCBPCounterfeitsCPSCImportInvestigationIPR, Trademarks and LogosSeizuresU.S.Customs

Florida Companies Convicted and Sentenced

posted by Jennifer Diaz June 24, 2013 0 comments

Co Authored by Robert Becerra

In another example of the government’s continuing use of the criminal justice system to enforce international trade laws, three Florida companies and their management were recently convicted and sentenced for importing smuggled toys from China containing lead and containing counterfeit trademarks.

LM Import-Export, Inc., Lam’s Investment Corp., and LK Toys Corp., Hung Lam and Isabella Kit Yeung plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to traffic and smuggle toys containing hazardous substances such as lead, and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 371 and 2320, respectively. Co-defendant Yeung plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of submitting a false country of origin label, in violation of 19 U.S.C. Sec. 1304(a). The information, or charging document filed in court, against all defendants, as well as the plea agreements for each defendant can be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida. (If you have trouble getting these documents, email me and I’d be happy to share them with you).

The facts underlying the charges, as stated in court documents, are that from April, 2000, until May 2011, a span of 11 years, the corporate defendants conspired to sell children’s products imported from China in violation of the Consumer Product Safety Act 15 U.S.C. Sec. 2068, and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, 15 U.S.C. Sec. 1263. Some of the toys contained lead, while others presented various hazards such as choking, aspiration or ingestion. The products were imported using false statements on Customs declaration forms and with false country of origin labeling.

Hung Lam was sentenced to 22 months incarceration, 3 years of supervised release and a $10,000 fine. The corporations were sentenced to 5 years of probation. Yeung was sentenced to 1 year probation and a $1,000 fine. An order was entered mandating the forfeiture to the government of $862,500 and all products imported by the defendants that were seized by the government. The press release from the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Department of Justice discussing the case can be found here and here respectively.

This case is extremely important for importers to be familiar with and understand that:

  1. It is vital for importers to retain counsel to assist with pre-compliance before you import.
  2. When you receive any violation notice from the federal government, retain counsel immediately and be sure to address all violations with remedial action and enhanced compliance procedures in an attempt to keep administrative penalties or forfeiture cases from turning into potential criminal matters.
  3. Resolving a civil action through a consent decree with the government does not absolve you of criminal liability.
  4. Once contacted by government officials, retain counsel immediately. Any evidence you provide or any statements you make will be used against you in court.
  5. Repeated misconduct and federal regulatory law violations over a period of years will often result in criminal prosecution of both companies and their individual employees, resulting in federal prison sentences and substantial fines and forfeitures.

 

InvestigationTSA

TSA and Pepper Spray – A Story of What NOT to Do

posted by Jennifer Diaz August 14, 2011 1 Comment

Our beloved Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has the responsibility of screening passengers to "ensure that certain items and persons prohibited from flying don’t board commercial airliners."  This is accomplished through 43,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) located at 450 airports around the United States.  While I am waiting in line to be screened, there seems always to be one energetic TSO screaming at my fellow passengers to take our shoes off, remove most liquids, take our belts off, take out our laptops, etc.. it is hard to remember that the official Mission of the TSA is to "protect the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce."  I do have one funny story to tell you about the TSA and a certain passenger.

While the TSA regulations specifically prohibit the carrying on board an aircraft, or even into the airport, any weapon or explosive device, a particular passenger had a pepper spray pen with him. The pepper spray pen was not detected by the TSO when the passenger’s body and luggage went through those radiation-emitting devices.

That is bad enough, but what the passenger did next was a mistake. After passing through TSA, he then approached the crew of the aircraft at his gate of departure, and handed over the pepper spray pen to the gate agents with some sort of statement that the TSOs did not detect the pen during the screening process.  Predictably, the passenger was then approached by law enforcement, interrogated, and not allowed to fly on that aircraft. The passenger subsequently received a Letter of Investigation from the TSA with the threat of a $11,000 penalty for attempting to compromise a security system utilized by TSA.

Seems to me that the gate agents and TSA should simply have said "thank you" to the passenger for turning over the pepper spray pen, rather than going on a witch hunt.  Perhaps the lesson the TSA wants to get across to people is not to tell the truth. If the passenger had kept his mouth shut, he would have kept his pepper spray pen, not missed his flight, and not have to pay a potential penalty of $11,000.  Plus, I guess now the TSOs will start yelling at passengers that the list of prohibited items includes pepper spray pens.

One more thing.  While it is prohibited to carry on board an aircraft any pepper spray, you may still transport it in your checked luggage, according to the TSA website