Customs sued for seizing $41,000 from nurse and not giving it back

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is facing a lawsuit accusing it of seizing $41,000 from a Texan woman last October and not giving it back, The Washington Post reported.

Anthonia Nwaorie, a 59-year-old registered nurse who became a U.S. citizen in 1994, said she was boarding a flight to Nigeria from Houston with medical supplies and money intended to open a medical clinic in her home nation when she was stopped by CBP officials. 

“It was like I was a criminal,” Nwaorie told the Post. “I felt so humiliated, so petrified, too. They were talking among themselves, saying how this is how people smuggle money out of the country. ‘This is how they do it.’” {mosads}

CBP agents seized all $41,377 dollars because Nwaorie failed to declare that she was leaving the country with more than $10,000 — a requirement of which she said she wasn’t aware.

Nwaorie was not charged with a crime. 

Nwaorie said the agency offered a “hold-harmless agreement” in April, under which the agency said it would return all of her money if she forfeited her right to sue the federal government. But Nwaorie decided to sue the agency instead.

According to The Texas Tribune, the Institute for Justice filed a class-action lawsuit on Nwaorie’s behalf against the the agency last Thursday. The Virginia-based law firm is demanding the agency return Nwaorie’s money without having her sign any type of written agreement.

“This is just about as unconstitutional as it gets,” Nwaorie’s attorney, Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice, told the Post. “They’re requiring her to trade her right to the property in exchange for giving up these other rights: Does she want her right to the property? Or does she want to give up her right to the First Amendment? They’re sending these agreements out to not just to Anthonia but, we think, hundreds or thousands of people every year.”

Alban wants the CBP to release an accounting of that type of data as part of the case.

“This case highlights the abusiveness of civil asset forfeitures in general,” Alban continued. “It’s just crazy: She’s not been charged with a crime. The entire situation was so weak and not worth pursuing that the U.S. attorney decided not to even try to forfeit her money. She’s been deprived of that money. She’s been unable to open her clinic. She’s been living a nightmare. This has really disrupted her life.”

Nwaorie said her plans to open the clinic have been suspended pending the conclusion of her legal battle.

“This was my dream, that people cannot be sent away from a clinic or a hospital because they do not have money,” she said. “This is something that I want to do for humanity, myself and my God, so there is nothing I would want to do to go against the law of this land to get it done. If I had known I had to declare the money before traveling, I would have done that.”

CBP did not comment on the story to the Post, citing pending litigation.

Tags Anthonia Nwaorie National security U.S. Customs and Border Protection us customs

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