CHICAGO (jGLi) – An ill-informed, if not ill-advised, wife of Philippine Senator Lito Lapid has enriched the coffers of the United States government again.
Instead of proudly informing the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authorities that she was in possession of more than $50,000 in U.S. currency and more than 10,000 Philippine pesos (US$356.00) when she arrived in the U.S. last November, she underdeclared her cash declaration below US$10,000 even if there was nothing wrong in declaring the actual amount in her possession.
If it was true that Mrs. Marissa Tadeo Lapid was telling the CPB’s Albert G. Giangregorio, Special Agent for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), that she was applying “as a Lawful Permanent Resident” upon her entry into the US, her alibi that she was taking in US$50,137 and US$356 in foreign currency (Philippine pesos) would have been perfect and valid reason for her to carry such amount as she needed it to start a new life in America.
The amount would not have raised a red flag from CBP authorities when she checked in at the Las Vegas International Airport in Nevada on Nov. 27, 2010.
Now, Mrs. Lapid will have to prove the source of her money and had to contend with her lawyer. If she cannot prove the legitimacy of the source of the money, she could be convicted of attempted bulk smuggling and criminal forfeiture of such offense.
The penalty for violation Title 31, U.S. Code, Section 5332 is a maximum five-year jail sentence, a fine of $250,000 and a term of supervised release of not more than three years if she went into trial and was found guilty of the charges against her.
A complaint of “probable cause affidavit” unsealed by the U.S. District Court of Nevada in Las Vegas showed that on Nov. 27, 2010 after Mrs. Lapid “presented a completed and a signed CBP Form 6059B, she stated she was not carrying currency or monetary instruments over $10,000 in U.S. currency or a foreign currency equivalent.”
When pressed again by CPB Officer Johnson, Lapid admitted she had additional 10,000 Philippine pesos (US$356.00).
“I SCREWED UP” SAYS THE WIFE OF THE SENATOR
The affidavit said that when Johnson “unzipped the baggage,” it led to the discovery of two socks containing $10,000, totaling $20,000, and one cloth bag containing an additional $20,000 “concealed beneath the bag lining.”
The discovery “represented an additional $40,000 over Lapid’s written and verbal declarations.” When asked what the additional money was for, Mrs. Lapid responded, “I’m sorry … It’s for my house.”
CPB officers seized the “$50,000 from Lapid in violation of bulk smuggling regulations and remitted the remaining $439 back to Lapid for humanitarian purposes.”
Mrs. Lapid also waived her Miranda Rights and agreed to answer the agent’s questions.
When asked if she knew about the U.S. requirement to report currency over $10,000 or foreign equivalent when entering the U.S., Lapid acknowledged she was aware of the reporting requirement and apologized profusely for the mistake, noting on several occasions, “I screwed up.”
Court records have not yet scheduled her court appearance.
The same scenario happened three years ago to an out-bound Filipino American family, who found out the hard and expensive way when they were carrying almost the same of money being brought into the U.S. by Mrs. Marissa Tadeo Lapid when the family evaded the currency-reporting requirements in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The US$52,454 that the family of Maria Cecilia DeSario earned so hard in America that they intended to use to buy a condominium in Manila, Philippines had to be forfeited in half in favor of the U.S. government after Mrs. DeSario entered a plea agreement and it was proven that the amount came from her family savings, wage bonuses of her husband and a credit-card loan.
The DeSario family admitted they concealed the money “out of initial ignorance of the law and very poor judgment and fear once they were being questioned at the airport on their way to Manila.” Mrs. DeSario would also “have a federal felony conviction on her record hereafter.”
When this reporter talked to Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry L. Butrick of Hawaii, Mr. Butrick said Maria Cecilia DeSario would not have lost a cent of the money if she was taking the money to the Philippines and if “she only told the truth. The U.S. government was not even going to ask her to pay anything, including tax. All the U.S. government wants is for her to report the $52,454 she was taking to the Philippines. That’s all. The U.S. government would just like to find out the movement of the U.S. dollars. (firstname.lastname@example.org)