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Operation Firewall

Fact Sheet
May 3, 2011

Combating Bulk Cash Smuggling

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.

Operation Firewall

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 HSI enforces bulk cash smuggling law beyond our nation's borders. ICE HSI and CBP also conduct Operation Firewall training operations with foreign law enforcement partners, including exercises with Mexican law enforcement that target the smuggling of U.S. currency through Mexico to Central and South America.

With operations in Mexico, Panama and Colombia, ICE HSI 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. They also train Mexican and Panamanian law enforcement officers on how to use mobile x-ray units provided by the U.S. Department of State.

Since 2005, ICE HSI has also partnered with other countries including Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Philippines, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand, among others to conduct Operation Firewall. Those partnerships have resulted in the detection and seizure of millions of dollars in bulk currency.