Federal officials are trying to seize more than $85,000 in cash bound for Romania that they say wasn’t properly declared at Albany International Airport.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed paperwork last week asking a judge to let federal authorities officially seize the cash. A hearing on the matter has been set for August.
The cash was seized in September from a local couple bound for Romania by way of Toronto. No criminal charges were filed, but authorities are seeking to seize the cash anyway.
Attorney J. Henry Glavin, who represents the couple, called them “good people” Tuesday but had no other comment, saying he had yet to be formally notified of the filing. He did not return calls for further comment Wednesday.
The couple, identified in court paperwork as Robert and Emilia Romaine of Latham, were examined the afternoon of Sept. 7 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents before their flight to Toronto.
According to the government’s filing:
When agents asked how much money they were carrying, they responded $9,000. When specifically asked if they were carrying more than $10,000 in cash, they responded that they were not.
Agents then told the couple that it was permissible to travel with more than $10,000, but that it had to be declared and forms filed.
As agents told the couple they were going to verify the currency, Robert Romaine then said he carried $6,000 and his wife $4,000.
Agents told them that still hit the $10,000 threshold because they were married, and again asked if they were carrying more money. The couple then produced $13,600 in cash.
Asked several more times if they were carrying more money, they said they were not. Agents then determined further inspection was needed.
At the Sheriff’s Department’s substation, Robert Romaine finally said they were carrying an additional $70,000. They were doing so because they had not had time to make a money transfer. He then showed agents the money, hidden in a carry-on bag.
After consulting with an attorney, the Romaines told investigators they had previously taken money out of the country, but never as much as that time.
They felt they had to hide the money because they believed that where they were going, Romania and Hungary, it would be stolen otherwise, according to the filing. The money was intended for a relative’s construction project in Romania.
In all, agents recovered $85,774.84 in U.S. currency. They also found $556.84 in foreign currencies, which they returned to the Romaines. It’s the U.S. currency that authorities are trying to seize.
Later that evening, officers located the Romaines’ Canadian Customs Declaration card. On that, a box asking if they were carrying monetary instruments of value totaling $10,000 Canadian or more was checked “no,” according to papers.
In November, Glavin filed a claim on the cash, saying the Romaines were carrying it because of a “cash-only” economy in Romania.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gwendolyn Carroll, who brought the forfeiture proceedings, could not be reached for comment.