$450,000 worth of vaping pens from HK seized by US Customs.

Image of seized dragster pens, source: CBP.gov

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP officers at Chicago O’Hare seized 50,000 vaping pens from Hong Kong.

The “dragster Mountain Vape Pens” were seized because they violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) regarding the importation of tobacco products – specifically for being misbranded and for being imported by an unauthorized agent. Typically this means an importer is not authorized to import goods (that may be counterfeit).

According to the Customs media release, Customs believes the shipment was intentionally and improperly mislabeled as “lithium ion batteries” to avoid seizure.

While not reported in the Customs media release – shipments that are mislabeled are typically seized under statute 19USC1499(a)(3)(A), copied below:

(3)Unspecified articles If any package contains any article not specified in the invoice or entry and, in the opinion of the Customs Service, the article was omitted from the invoice or entry—(A) with fraudulent intent on the part of the seller, shipper, owner, agent, importer of record, or entry filer, the contents of the entire package in which such article is found shall be subject to seizure; or

19USC1499(a)(3)(A) is a catch all statute Customs frequently uses to seize any goods that are not included in paperwork. Omissions or mis-representations on the paperwork (regardless of goods being imported) is the easiest way for Customs to seize shipments. If you are in the import business – be sure the exporter is correctly declaring the shipment and are following your import compliance manual and procedures.

If you import and don’t have a compliance manual or procedures – contact me, you need one, 832-896-6288.

Going back to the vape pens – Customs will likely not release these goods as the FDA has increasingly cracked down on the importation of these vape pens and other nicotine delivery systems. The alleged counterfeit nature of the pens and the mislabeling of the shipment will likely mean these vape pens will not be released.

If you have had your goods seized by Customs, contact seizure attorney David Hsu immediately by phone or text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

$47,000 in currency seized by Customs.

Image of seized currency, source: CBP.gov

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP officers in Dulles International Airport asked a female traveler heading to the Netherlands how much currency she was carrying. The Netherlands-bound traveler reported she was carrying $10,000 and also produced a completed FINCEN-105 form.

CBP officers asked her if she had additional and she responded she did not. However, upon a subsequent inspection, officers found a total of more than $47,000. Officers returned her $1,740 for humanitarian purposes and she continued on her trip.

Pro Tips for travelers:

  1. If Customs ask if you are carrying over $10,000 in currency, it is because they already know you are carrying more than $10,000 in currency.
  2. Be honest with Customs, you can carry more than $10,000, you just have to report it.
  3. Don’t sign the FINCEN 105 form before you count the amount of currency you have. Count first, then sign.
  4. If you get your currency seized, you have about 30 days, if you will be overseas – be sure someone will be able to access your physical mail to receive the “Notice of Seizure”

If you have had your hard-earned currency seized, contact customs seizure attorney David Hsu by phone/text for immediate help: 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

Follow the Director of CBP’s Baltimore Field Office on Twitter at @DFOBaltimore and on Instagram at @dfobaltimore for breaking news, current events, human interest stories and photos.

Currency hidden in sanitary napkins seized by Customs.

Seized currency contained inside sanitary pad packaging – source: CBP.gov

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP officers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized over $60,000 from a female traveler heading to Amsterdam in early February. According to the release, the traveler was stopped by CBP officers who conducted an outbound examination. During examination, the traveler indicated she only had $1,000, but during a subsequent inspection CBP officers found bundles of cash inside envelopes, further hidden inside packaging used for containing sanitary napkins (see photo above from the CBP media release).

CBP officers seized the currency for violating currency reporting requirements – which require all travelers leaving and entering the US to declare currency over $10,000.

If you are traveling – be sure to report any amounts over $10,000 – which includes foreign currency, foreign coins, traveler’s checks, money orders, negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form – if you aren’t sure – give me a call – 832-896-6288.

The media release did not say whether a portion of the $60,000 was returned to the traveler for humanitarian reasons – so my guess is Customs kept the entire sum.

If you have had your hard-earned cash seized by Customs, contact David Hsu immediately – your time may be running out. Call/text 832-896-6288 or email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

Counterfeit AirPods seized in Houston – over $1.6 million worth.

Seized AirPods, source: cbp.gov

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP working in Houston in late January seized counterfeit electronics – including Apple’s “AirPods” worth more than $1.6 million dollars of MSRP value. According to the media release – the importer of record abandoned the merchandise, meaning CBP will destroy the goods.

Do you have to abandon your goods if they have been seized for intellectual property rights violations?
No, you do not – the other alternative is to petition for the release of the goods if you know they are authentic. While a petition does not guarantee a return of your goods, it gives you the opportunity to present your information and argue why the goods are authentic to CBP.

The remainder of the media release reiterated CBP’s arguments against counterfeit goods – (1) may be produced from forced labor, (2) economic harm to the trademark holder, (3) unsafe products that may cause injuries to the consumer.

If you or anyone you know has had your shipment seized for alleged intellectual property or trademark violations – contact David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com

Import drug paraphernalia only if you want to get it seized.

Image of dabbers, source: CBP.gov

I get monthly calls from importers who had their shipment seized as drug paraphernalia. In general, anything that is used to produce, conceal and consume illicit drugs is considered drug paraphernalia.

In late December, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Chicago seized shipments of packages that contained dabbers and quartz banger nails. These are considered paraphernalia as they can be used to vaporize cannabis on a bong.

Importers of drug paraphernalia could be subject to fines and imprisonment. If you have had your drug paraphernalia shipment seized, contact David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

Who’s at fault – the importer or the manufacturer who used “Samsung” batteries in the toys?

batteries lot
Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

I receive at least one call a week from importers who have had their goods seized by Customs for trademark violations, and one very common seizure is for “Samsung” batteries (or any other brand name) contained within toys such as hoverboards or RC vehicles.

As you are aware, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the hall monitor of the multiple government agencies and CBP is tasked with the enforcement of all rules and regulations established by the various agencies – for example, CBP enforces trademarks, enforces FDA import alerts, enforces US Fish and Wildlife restrictions on shark fins and all of the tens of thousands of rules from every agency.

In regards to trademarks, CBP must enforce trademarks if the intellectual property holder registered the trademark with Customs. Unfortunately for importers, Samsung has registered many trademarks and anything found to contain the “Samsung” trademark is easy picking for Customs to detain.

Typically, CBP has the ability to detain goods for 5 days – and longer if the detention is because the goods are suspected of violating intellectual property rights.

Once CBP detains a shipment – they notify the importer of record (IOR) or customs broker the shipment has been detained and will be released pending proof the IOR has authorization from the trademark holder to import the trademarked goods.

Unfortunately, 10 out of 10 times the trademark holder will respond to Customs the IOR does not have authority to import the trademarked good. Once that happens, CBP will officially seize the goods and issue a Notice of Seizure to the IOR by certified mail, return receipt requested.

The importer of record then has 30 days to respond to the seizure. According to the Election of Proceedings form on the last page of the seizure notice, there are 4 options – (1) file a petition, (2) forfeit the goods, (3) refer to court action or offer in compromise.

Going back to the original question – who is at fault for the seizure, the manufacturer that used “Samsung” batteries or the importer of record? And as you can guess from the above – CBP will ultimately find the Importer of Record responsible for trademark violations. While this answer seems unfair, it makes sense as CBP has no authority outside of the United States and no mechanism to go after the manufacturer. The only party CBP can find liable is the importer of record.

If you have had your good seized for any reason – contact seizure attorney David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

550 pounds of counterfeit Apple and Samsung products seized.

Seized Apple products, source: CBP.gov

According to a mid-December U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP officers in Cincinnati seized multiple boxes of counterfeit goods totaling 550 pounds. The seized shipment from Hong Kong arrived in multiple shipments and included electronic accessories such as cables, earbuds, chargers with counterfeit logos from brands such as Apple and Samsung. CBP estimated the MSRP (if authentic) of the goods was $49,666.00 – a very specific amount typically used when there is a quantity of counterfeit goods seized.

This is the first time in recent memory CBP has described a shipment of counterfeit goods by weight. My guess is the number of earbuds, cables, chargers and adapters (lighting to headphone jack?) were packaged in small boxes or clamshell packaging. Separating each earbud case, each box of cable and each charger would likely have taken too much time to separate and count.

The media release includes the typical CBP paragraph warning counterfeit goods and the sale of contribute to criminal activity, forced labor, human trafficking and cause a risk to consumers due to the products not meeting quality standards.

If you have had your goods seized by Customs, contact David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com to discuss your options.

No laughing matter – $1.3 million in counterfeit LOL toys seized.

Seized “LOL Surprise!” toys, source: CBP.gov

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of New York/Newark recently seized a shipment of counterfeit LOL Surprise toys along with counterfeit UNO card games. The large seized shipment contained over 141,000 card games and over 11,000 counterfeit LOL surprise balls and capsule toys. If authentic, the total MSRP of the seized goods would have totaled approximately $1,300,000.

Toys suspected of being counterfeit are reviewed by CBP’s Consumer Prodcuts and Mass Merchandising Center for Excellence and Expertise (CEE). The CEE in turn will work with the trademark holders to verify the authenticity of the goods.

Interestingly, this Customs media release indicates the seizure was also being investigated by the Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents. HSI involvement typically means suspicion of criminal activity or something more than the usual counterfeit goods.

If you or someone you know has had your shipment seized by Customs, contact David Hsu by phone at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com to discuss your options.

Drug paraphernalia seized by CBP in Chicago.

“Seahorse” vape kits seized by CBP, source: CBP.gov

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) media release, CBP officers in Chicago seized drug paraphernalia goods on multiple days earlier in December. In one shipment, CBP seized wax vaping kits and glass pipes in another shipment.

In general – if you import any sort of glass pipe, or glass pipes with plastic roses in them, or other vaping kits – they will likely be seized by CBP because it is illegal to import and export paraphernalia (21 U.S.C. 863(a)).

CBP broadly defines drug paraphernalia as:

“any equipment, product, or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance, possession of which is unlawful under this subchapter.” (21 U.S.C. 863(d))

CBP seized both the wax vaping kits and glass pipes because they can be used to smoke marijuana.

If you have had your good seized because they are considered drug paraphernalia, contact seizure attorney David Hsu by phone/text at 832-896-6288 or by email at attorney.dave@yahoo.com.

Counterfeit sports memorabilia seized by Customs.

Image of seized jerseys, source: CBP.gov

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers in Cincinnati seized 200 counterfeit sports jerseys bearing the autograph of various athletes – including Jason Witten, Dwayne Haskins, Rod Carew and Minkah Fitzpatrick. If authentic, the value of the jerseys would have been worth over $42,000. This shipment was sent from the Philippines to Nashville, Tennessee.

“Counterfeiters only care about making a profit,” said Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie. “They don’t care about the effect their fake product has on you, your family, or your job. Our officers are well-trained to find seizures like these, to continue our mission of protecting the American public and the American economy”

In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP seized 26,503 shipments of counterfeit goods worth nearly $1.3 billion had the goods been genuine. Most of these seizures were of apparel and accessories, but fake medical supplies played a significant role as well. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBP has seized more than 13.5 million counterfeit face masks, and more than 177,000 unapproved COVID-19 test kits.

CBP encourages consumers to be aware of counterfeit and pirated goods when shopping this holiday season, particularly when purchasing online. CBP has also established an educational initiative to raise consumer awareness about the consequences and dangers associated with purchasing counterfeit and pirated goods online or in stores. More information about that initiative is available at http://www.cbp.gov/fakegoodsrealdangers.