Some people are horrible liars. Like the American Airlines flight attendant who got a little nervous when questioned by customs officials in Miami. The result was four flight attendants arrested for money laundering.
After arriving from Santiago (SCL), immigration officers asked AA flight attendant Carlos Alberto Munoz Moyano if he was carrying cash. He replied that he was carrying $100. Immigration officers pushed back and Munoz Moyano changed his story to $9,000.
Clearly not an innocent mistake, the flight attendant was directed to secondary screening for a more thorough search. Agents were alerted and began probing other members of the AA flight crew.
Soon enough, three other flight attendants were pulled aside and all four eventually arrested. Together, the flight attendants were carrying $22,671 in cash. They now face money laundering charges.
An American spokesperson declined to discuss the specifics, but did tell USA Today:
We take this matter seriously and are cooperating with law enforcement throughout their investigation.
Chile is currently experiencing civil unrest. Protests have been ongoing across the country over economic inequality, which started when subway fare hikes were proposed in Santiago. Although the planned fare hikes were rescinded, protests continue and over 10,000 soldiers and federal troops have been patrolling the streets of Santiago.
The civil unrest has caused the Chilean peso to plummet in value. It is likely that the flight attendants were part of an effort to remove recently-exchanged currency from the country.
What About The $10,000/Person Limit?
One thing that is not clear to me in this case is why the flight attendants were busted in the first place. The legal limit is $10,000/person into the USA…amounts falling under that threshold do not require reporting.
But there’s a twist in the rules. Money, if it belongs to one person, cannot be split up among several to circumvent the $10,000 limit. For example, if I wanted to bring in $12,000 into the USA, I could not give $6K to my son and we each do not declare anything.
This is just speculation, but it may be that the flight attendants actually admitted to laundering money during their detention when it was revealed that their “accounting trick” of splitting up the money was not acceptable.
The truth usually has a way of coming out. Here, it happened when one flight attendant became a bit flustered when answering questions. it is naive to assume that this sort of thing does not happen on a daily basis, especially in Miami (with apologies to my readers from South Florida). But suddenly remembering you have an extra $8,900 in your carry-on bag is a great way to secure a cavity search…