A 44-year-old Nigerian woman from Texas got a very painful lesson in a US District Court in Detroit about federal currency law and American citizenship.
Iyobosa Odiase is a registered nurse in Ft. Worth. On May 14th, she was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to forfeit $92,843 in cash that she did not declare after whe landed in the US at Detroit Metro Airport last August after flying in from Nigeria enroute to Texas. The money was proceeds from an estate that she was bringing back to divy up between relatives in the United States.
The married mother of four children did not bother to become a US citizen, evern though she has been living here as a permanent resident since 1989. So the long and the short of it is she not only lost the money, she may also face being deported.
"She's paying a very severe price for a lack of judgment at the airport," her lawyer, Sanford Plotkin of Detroit, said after his client was sentenced on Monday before U.S. District Judge George Steeh.
Her lawyer says that Odiase was completely frazzled when she arrived at customs because she had to haul her children around the airport and was really worried about missing her connecting flight to Ft. Worth. When a customs officer asked her how much cash she was carrying, she says she wasn't thinking and declared she had $20,000. Customs officials checked her luggage and purse and found $112,843.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leonid Feller told Steeh that there was no evidence that the money came from illegal activities. Until now, Odiase had no criminal record. She pleaded guilty in February to making false statements to customs officers.
Travelers can carry as much money as they want under federal law but, they are required to declare any amounts that are over $10,000. The US Attorney's Office says that if you don't, you can wind up like Odiase. The currency laws were amended after 9/11 to assist federal officials in being able to do a better job of tracking money.
In another failure to declare incident, last week a 35-year-old Ethiopian man was sentenced in federal court to a year and a day in prison and ordered to forfeit $60,000 that he didn't declare. The man's lawyer told the judge at sentencing that the man feared that he would get into trouble, have to pay federal taxes or be forced to pay a bribe had he told customs officers how much he was carrying.