Victoria Faren, a 78-year-old woman from Clearwater, Florida, was flying with her 48-year-old daughter to the Philippines in April, but as they attempted to fly out of Detroit, customs officials noticed that she had declared two different amounts when asked how much cash she was carrying.
The discrepancy resulted in the customs officials searching the elderly woman and finding nearly $41,000 hidden in her bra, girdle and in her luggage as well. The customs agents seized the cash from the tearful Faren, who said it was money she earned from selling her house to her own son.
Now, four months later, the federal government is refusing to give the money back — even though Faren was not charged with any crime.
Federal law says travelers carrying more than $10,000 must declare their cash to customs officials when leaving the country. But authorities say that for some reason, Faren misled them again and again when they asked her how much money she was bringing along on her trip to the Philippines.
But even though the woman was never charged with anything, the feds on Friday filed a request with a U.S. District Court to keep the whole sum that they took from Faren on April 2 — total of $40,977.
The strange encounter began when Faren told the customs officials that she was carrying $200, but when asked the same question on a written form, she wrote that she was transporting $1,200.
Suspicious customs agents then searched her bags and found several wallets stuffed with cash, in amounts that added up to $8,000. Faren then told the customs officers that they had found all the money she had on her.
Unconvinced, the officers continued searching for cash, finding $4,000 sewn into a pouch in her bag and almost $1,000 in sealed envelopes. According to court records, when the customs agents finished their search of her carry-on bag they found a total of almost $13,000 in cash.
But that wasn’t all. Faren then confessed that she had more money on her person. The customs agents pulled another $3,000 out of her blouse and $2,000 more sewn into her bra. And they still weren’t done.
One sharp-eyed customs officer noticed an odd bulge on the woman’s posterior. When the searched her girdle, they found a staggering $21,000.
Faren explained that she had previously wired some of the house sale proceeds to the Philippines, but felt that carrying thousands of dollars secretly on her person was actually the safer alternative. The woman’s daughter said that she was stunned that her mother had that much cash on her, and that her mother was “old.”
Without any crimes being alleged, however, it remains unclear why the government believes it shoud not return the money to Victoria Faren. But questionable cash seizures are not uncommon. One motorist returning from a successful gambling trip to Las Vegas recently had $50,000 seized by a police officer at a traffic stop.