This past year has seen an explosion of seizures of bank accounts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for alleged trade-based money laundering or “structuring”. In 2011, I have handled these cases in Miami, New York, San Diego, Boston, Phoenix, San Juan, and Norfolk. The funds in the bank accounts are taken when the bank is served with a Seizure Warrant signed by a United States Magistrate Judge, based upon an affidavit prepared by the DEA or ICE Agent.
Typically, the bank (and its customer) do not get to see the Affidavit because the criminal proceeding is ongoing, and the Affidavit is sealed. The Seizure Warrant itself typically alleges that the money is subject to seizure because it is the proceeds of drug activity in violation of 21 U.S.C. 881 and 18 U.S.C. 1956.
A related legal basis for the seizure of bank accounts is ‘structuring’ – the deposit of $10,000 or less in cash repeatedly in a bank account to avoid the filing by the bank of a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen), U.S. Department of the Treasury . See 31 CFR 1010.314. A CTR is FinCen Form 104. A CTR is required to be filed by all banks whenever a deposit of cash over $10,000 is made in a single day into a single account or by […]