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Financial Crimes
05/27/2008

ICE and CBP coordinate with Israeli Customs to combat bulk cash smuggling

International operation leads to an arrest and nearly $500,000 in seizures

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last week worked with their Israeli law enforcement counterparts in Israel and at U.S. airports as part of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) "Hands Across the World" initiative. The coordinated law enforcement effort resulted in an arrest and two seizures in the United States and 14 seizures in Israel. The combined seizures totaled nearly $500,000 in cash, negotiable checks, gold and diamonds.

DHS' "Hands Across the World" initiative combats the illicit movement of currency by synchronizing intelligence and cash declaration information between international law enforcement partners.

In the U.S., the four-day operation led to the arrest of, Silvia Joseph, 39, from Argentina, who was apprehended as she attempted to leave Newark Liberty International Airport without declaring currency in the amount of $130,145. Joseph now faces a federal criminal charge for failing to report the international movement of currency exceeding $10,000. CBP officers discovered the U.S. currency concealed in Joseph's carry-on luggage on a flight destined for Tel Aviv, Israel. In a separate seizure, CBP officers also discovered $59,060 in bulk cash and negotiable checks at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from an Israeli man en-route to Tel Aviv.

Overseas, agents and officers also targeted flights from the U.S. to Jordan and focused on passengers who subsequently crossed the Israel-Jordan land border. At the Allenby Crossing into Israel, $49,000 was seized from a U.S. citizen en route to Rammalah. Additionally, Israeli officers seized approximately $60,000 in gold and diamond jewelry which an Israeli woman attempted to hide underneath her clothing.

"Disrupting and dismantling terrorist and other criminal organizations by cutting off the cash flow that fuels their illegal activity is a top priority for ICE," said Marcy Forman, Director of ICE's Office of Investigations. "Countries must look beyond their own borders to effectively combat the global threat posed by bulk cash smuggling. As this operation with Israel demonstrates, the highest level of success can only be achieved when law enforcement partners combine resources and work together."

"This operation is one of the many partnerships CBP is engaged in to protect our homeland by stopping illicit cross border activities," said Thomas Winkowski, CBP Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Field Operations. "These seizures demonstrate what can be accomplished when law enforcement agencies work together with vigilance and a commitment to combating terrorist and criminal organizations."

Doron Arbely, Head of Israel Customs, Investigations and Intelligence, noted, "The great importance of this joint operation and its success is one of the most significant instances of the ongoing cooperation between the two administrations. Israel Customs will act towards enhancing this cooperation in the future in our joint effort to thwart criminal activities by preventing illegal cash entrance."

The "Hands Across the World" initiative, led by ICE and CBP, began in 2007 and built upon the success of DHS' Operation Firewall, which targets bulk cash smuggling in the United States' interior, at the ports of entry and internationally. The "Hands Across the World" expansion now includes the exchange of information, including cash declaration data, between ICE, CBP, and foreign law enforcement agencies. Since 2005, Operation Firewall is credited for more than $124 million in seizures; $45 million taking place internationally, including seizures in Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador.

For U.S. currency reporting information, visit www.ice.gov and www.cbp.gov.