On Thursday (January 5), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that it recorded 21 smuggling incidents of food and agriculture items since December 28, from holiday travelers to Mexico returning to the United States. A total of $6,097.84 in penalty fees were collected.
“During this time of the year it is not uncommon for people who spend time in Mexico to attempt to return to their U.S. homes with prohibited goods,” said Hector Mancha, U.S. Customs and Border Protection El Paso Port Director.
The largest penalty was assessed in a cheese smuggling case at the Paso Del Norte port of entry in El Paso on December 28, 2011. CBP officers initiated a routine search of a vehicle – whose owners had declared no plant, fruit, meat, or vegetable products – and discovered 10 wheels of cheese hidden in the spare tire well of the car. The cheese weighed 116.5 pounds, and the ensuing penalty was $697.84, the value of the cheese.
“The best course of action to avoid penalties and help prevent the spread of pests and disease in the U.S. is to declare all your items to CBP,” said Mancha. “Every traveler is given multiple opportunities to declare their goods. If they declare the item and it is prohibited they can abandon it without incident. However if they fail to declare the item the product will be seized and they will face a $300 civil penalty.”