February 6, 2008
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is charged with enforcing a wide array of laws, including those related to financial crime, trade fraud, counterfeiting, cash smuggling and others.
In recent years, the smuggling of bulk currency has become a preferred method for drug dealers and other criminals to move illicit proceeds across our borders. Congress criminalized the act of smuggling large amounts of cash as part of the USA PATRIOT Act. Specifically, Title 31 U.S.C. 5332-Bulk Cash Smuggling makes it a crime to smuggle or attempt to smuggle over $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments into or out of the United States, with the specific intent to evade the U.S. currency-reporting requirements codified in 31 U.S.C. 5316.
ICE has taken a leading role in combating bulk cash smuggling, teaming in 2005 with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to launch Operation Firewall, a comprehensive law enforcement operation targeting criminal organizations involved in the smuggling of large quantities of U.S. currency.
Operation Firewall targets the full array of methods used to smuggle bulk cash, including commercial and private passenger vehicles, commercial airline shipments and passengers, and pedestrians crossing U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada.
ICE and CBP partner to combat cash smuggling at U.S. ports-of-entry. In the U.S. interior, ICE works with state and local partners to identify and intercept smuggled bulk cash shipments being transported along domestic interstate highways.
An International Law Enforcement Partnership
ICE's enforcement of the bulk cash smuggling law extends beyond our nation's borders. ICE and CBP also conduct Operation Firewall training operations with foreign law enforcement partners, including exercises with Mexican law enforcement targeting the smuggling of U.S. currency through Mexico to Central and South America.
With operations in Mexico, Panama and Colombia, ICE special agents and CBP officers provide hands-on training to law enforcement partners on passenger analysis and other investigative techniques that have proven effective in the United States. Operations in Mexico and Panama also include training on the use of mobile x-ray units provided to the Mexican government by the U.S. Department of State.
Operation Firewall Results to Date
In fiscal year 2007, Operation Firewall investigations resulted in the seizure of more than $49.5 million in U.S. currency and monetary instruments as well as the criminal arrest of 142 individuals. International seizures totaled more than $8 million and accounted for seven arrests. Since 2005, Operation Firewall seizures have totaled more than $115 million and the arrest of 260 suspects in the U.S., Mexico, Panama and Colombia.