The Federal Government has enacted laws designed to keep track of all financial activities. The first of these laws was enacted in 1970 and is called the Bank Secrecy Act. Banks must report a deposit or withdrawal  over $10,000 in currency. The bank files a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) with the Department of Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The information is shared with the IRS and other federal agencies. In addition, banks are required to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) with FinCEN. These reports cover various types of activities including cash deposits of less than $10,000 that the bank suspects may have been done to avoid the CTR filing. The filing of CTRs and SARs can result in bank customers coming under IRS audits and criminal investigations. Unfortunately, people without any knowledge of the requirement of a CTR can find themselves being charged with serious crimes.

Many people have no knowledge that a bank is required to file a CTR when a deposit is over $10,000. Even if the customer knows that the bank will file a CTR, he or she may think that it is better not to cause the CTR to be filed and therefore divide up the deposit.  Many people do not know that dividing a deposit is a crime. In order to be convicted of structuring a bank deposit, the government does not need to prove that the defendant knew that it was against the law to structure the deposit to evade the CTR being filed. The government only needs to prove that the defendant decided to divide up the deposit because he or she didn’t want the bank to file a form with the government.

A federal investigator may decide that a person that makes four $6,000 deposits in two weeks is committing the crime of structuring, even if the bank customer is a small business person who does not want to carry more than $6,000 to the bank at any one time. The bank customer can be convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. The government can forfeit not only the bank account into which the deposits were made but also other assets such as the customer’s home or business if the funds from the account were used to buy the home or business or to make mortgage payments.

It is easy to understand why there’s been a lot of criticism of the structuring statute. It is fundamentally unfair to subject a citizen to a serious felony for structuring a deposit without requiring that the bank customer knew that it was illegal to break up a cash deposit.  The federal government should require banks to post notice that it is against the law to make deposits of under $10,000 to avoid  a bank filing a CTR. Likewise, banks should be required to post notices to customers that it may file a SAR if the customer brings in cash deposits less than $10,000.

Depriving a person of their liberty and accusing them of being a felon because of the way currency is deposited into a bank should require fair notice that the conduct is a crime.

Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A.
17 East Pine St.Orlando, FL 32801
P: 407-843-7733 • F: 407-849-1321