Arrests of people who fail to report the exact amount of cash they are bringing into the country have become almost routine at Miami International Airport.
What was not routine was how federal agents came to detain a woman seeking to enter the United States after a trip from the Bahamas in August.
Rosario Rodríguez, 50, has since changed her initial plea to guilty and was sentenced last week to one-year probation. However, she also was ordered to cooperate with immigration authorities in deportation proceedings, according to records in Miami federal court. Court documents do not cite her nationality.
The case, detailed in a criminal complaint filed by a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent, began Aug. 16 when Rodríguez landed on a seaplane in Biscayne Bay after a flight from Bimini, in the Bahamas.
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When Rodríguez presented her customs declaration form to passport control officers, she stated in the document that she was not carrying money in excess of $10,000.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers then asked Rodríguez how much money she carried and she said about $5,000. The officers decided to verify her statement and searched her belongings.
“The search revealed $5,000 in Rodríguez’s purse and $14,102 in her luggage,” the criminal complaint said. “The cash in Rodríguez’s luggage was inside a plastic bag and wrapped inside a pair of shorts.”
After being arrested, the complaint said, Rodríguez “admitted that all of the money found in her purse and luggage belonged to her.”
However, the complaint doesn’t say if Rodríguez explained why she did not report the full amount from the start.
The case is only one of several that occur frequently in South Florida CBP ports of entry.
In September, two Ecuadorean travelers who arrived at Miami International Airport were accused of failing to report the total amount of money they were carrying. They are now facing possible trial in Miami federal court.
Victor Elias Galarza Salazar and Moises Gualberto Torres Vargas are awaiting an arraignment after being indicted Sept. 17 in the case brought against them by HSI, a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The customs declaration in the case also stated that there was less than $10,000 between the two travelers. But officers ultimately found $12,313 split between the two men – ($7,292) Salazar and ($5,021) Vargas, according to the complaint.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy