The Letters - Update December 21, 2008

sinnyc

Tibi ipsi esto fidelis.
Well, well, well.

I recently received a package from a vendor in the Asia/Pacific region that arrived cut open, un-resealed, and empty except for some bubble wrap and a slip of paper approximately 3" x 4" on which was printed the following under a Dept. of Homeland Security emblem:

NOTICE

NARCOTICS AND/OR OTHER CONTRABAND,

PROHIBITED FROM ENTRY INTO THE UNITED

STATES, HAVE BEEN SEIZED AND REMOVED

FOR APPROPRIATE ACTION UNDER

19CFR145.59. YOU WILL BE RECEIVING

CORRESPONDENCE FROM OUR FINES,

PENALTIES, AND FORFEITURES BRANCH IN

THE NEAR FUTURE.


Now, this slip of paper was printed in black ink in below average resolution on plain printer paper. In fact, I'm pretty sure it had been cut from a sheet containing several copies of this same message. Frankly, it looked low-tech, amateurish, and if I hadn't done some research; fake. I did some googling and discovered some folks on other cigar boards with the same experience and, sort of frighteningly, some boards that seem to have something to do with mail order drugs.

This is not like any other warning I have heard of so far and I can't find much info. Can anyone shed any light on this - feel free to PM me if you prefer.

- Tim
Minor update:

I have received several PM's from folks that have had the same thing happen to them (in two cases, the identical problem of one box seized out of a multi-box order) from the same vendor. As of right now, I am still quite confident that the vendor is blameless so I will not be naming names, even if I had admin permission to do so. However it seems pretty clear from these PM's that something is going on - maybe DHS is looking closely at certain packages from this country or region so my advice is be careful.

As for me, I am not in any position to get in to a scrape with the DHS so their little note to me has had its desired (and, I hope, only) effect as I plan to hide under the bed like a whipped dog. I will update again with any pertinent developments.

- Tim
 

mu mike

It's not a lie if you believe it.
Ouch, sorry to hear.

I have a package en route that is taking an unusual amount of time to arrive. I hope it does not meet the same fate.
 
Reports are coming in of a new letter being sent out by OFAC. Titled "CAUTIONARY LETTER," this document suggests that perhaps, just perhaps, the prosecution of Trading with the Enemy Act: Helms-Burton, Cuban Assets Control Regulations, is being deprioritized. Why is this happening now? One might speculate that the incoming Obama administration's softened stance on interactions with Cuba might be at the heart of it. Perhaps it's the worldwide economic meltdown that's drawing their attentions to other more important issues. Could be any one of a number of other factors or several of these in concert.

In any case, the wording of the letter suggests that ongoing enforcement actions are being summarily terminated.

The timeline leading up to this particular letter began in the first two months of this year with the receipt of an "R" Letter or Requirement to Furnish Information. Of the three interdiction letters that have been sent out (R, W, C), this was the worst in that it made a formal request for the accused to report what they purchased as well as any and all financial records related to said purchase. It also identified the world region from which the goods were allegedly purchased, which in this case, was a special administrative region in the Far East.

The individual responded by saying that he had no knowledge of this transaction and thus had no records.

Then at mid-year, OFAC issued a “Prepenalty Notice.” In this letter, OFAC detailed precisely the goods (right down to the marca, vitola, and number of sticks in the box) and time frame the alleged purchase of Cuban goods occurred. At this point, other folks hit with these letters have actually called the number on the letter and copped to being a total stupid-head for trying to order those bad, godless commie cigars. They were then given advice with respect to making a counteroffer against the proposed civil fine including what mitigating circumstances might result in reduction of the penalty. This typically resulted in a reduction or elimination of the fine. Those who ignored the Prepenalty Notice were typically hit with a fine up to the full amount of the original penalty.



I’ve been going over the information that has been collected over the nearly two years that this thread has been active. While it may still be too early to say for sure, I do hope that this Cautionary Letter signals a turning point in the actions and priorities of the OFAC away from less frivolous and toward more pressing concerns. For example, the export of prohibited technology to unfriendly states.

I’m now also of the opinion that the largest Far East retailer, that suddenly found itself in the eye of the storm, need not have turned over one iota of information to anyone for this persecution to have happened. All fingers point to at least one of the major credit card companies and, more critically, one online payment processor (no longer being used by any reputable vendor of which I’m aware) as being fully necessary and sufficient for OFAC to have obtained any and all records necessary to initiate these enforcement actions.

It is deplorable that this retailer has been made to suffer. As one of the very few vendors with an unsullied reputation, the damage sustained was not only undeserved but also unjust.

To all my Habanos-loving brothers and sisters out there, I’d ask that you let me know if you hear anything further about these new letters. I have reports from various regions of the online world but as this might signal a significant change in the environment surrounding OFAC’s policy on enforcement of the Embargo, the more timely information we can gather and integrate, the quicker we will be able to come to a more accurate conclusion.

Wilkey
 
Interesting indeed. I'd also note that some folks contacted OFAC after the R-letter and prior to receiving the Prepenalty notice. The result is the same.

Wilkey
 

BobbyRitz

You're Fired, Daddy.
Thanks for your continued diligence regarding this important issue. Am I correct in saying that the new letter continues to relate to the same Far East vendor?

Best,

Rob
 
I'll look around but this has the feel of change in prioritizing due to the financial sectors issue.

Back in 2004 there was a shift. I'm sure that's the case now.

Thanks for the work Wilkey!


edit - there may also be an issue with how the information was initially obtained. ;)
 

alexgtp

newbie extrodinaire!!
It is good to hear.

But i am more concerned with the recent increase in confiscations/thefts.

Many ppl I have spoken too have had anywhere from 30-50% of their shipments confiscated/stoeln.

Wonder why confiscations are up?
 

Gonz

Ultra Runner
Wilkey, unless you have me on ignore you should turn on your pm's!


Someone I occasionally smoke with had two packages taken by customs in LA about 2 months ago. They rec'd just the brown paper packaging with a small 3x5 very low budget piece of paper from Homeland Security saying they had tried to bring some sort of illegal contraband/narcotics into the country and it had been confiscated, but unfortunately they threw everything away. It was followed by the more official looking customs letter of confiscation informing them of their rights to contest if they wished or otherwise they'd keep it and it was a done deal, they threw away that letter too. I just shook my head and said how foolish of you to try and import illegal cigars...

Someone else I know also rec'd the same thing very recently, I think they posted about it here, and he kept and could probably tell you exactly what the little piece of paper from Homeland Security said. PM me if you'd like that members name.

Andy
 
There was a drug sting on a certain shipper in the summer. After that, more if not all packages from overseas were then being screened...and confiscations went up.
With a new shipping method, items are being lost or confiscated. Why the increas in confiscation...someone's watching! ;)
 

sinnyc

Tibi ipsi esto fidelis.
Wilkey, unless you have me on ignore you should turn on your pm's!


Someone I occasionally smoke with had two packages taken by customs in LA about 2 months ago. They rec'd just the brown paper packaging with a small 3x5 very low budget piece of paper from Homeland Security saying they had tried to bring some sort of illegal contraband/narcotics into the country and it had been confiscated, but unfortunately they threw everything away. It was followed by the more official looking customs letter of confiscation informing them of their rights to contest if they wished or otherwise they'd keep it and it was a done deal, they threw away that letter too. I just shook my head and said how foolish of you to try and import illegal cigars...

Someone else I know also rec'd the same thing very recently, I think they posted about it here, and he kept and could probably tell you exactly what the little piece of paper from Homeland Security said. PM me if you'd like that members name.

Andy
Andy,

I just got the "official looking customs letter" from the DHS/L.A. International Mail Branch Customs and Border Protection office and additional Notice on seizures from the Port of L.A. today. Although it is clearly a C-letter with wording modified from the example posts early in this thread, it still appears to be just that - a C-letter - and nothing more. I hope...

I'll try to get a scan and post it soon if I can.

As for the note that came in the original packaging, I got that too. The wording is as follows:

...
I recently received a package from a vendor in the Asia/Pacific region that arrived cut open, un-resealed, and empty except for some bubble wrap and a slip of paper approximately 3" x 4" on which was printed the following under a Dept. of Homeland Security emblem:

NOTICE

NARCOTICS AND/OR OTHER CONTRABAND,

PROHIBITED FROM ENTRY INTO THE UNITED

STATES, HAVE BEEN SEIZED AND REMOVED

FOR APPROPRIATE ACTION UNDER

19CFR145.59. YOU WILL BE RECEIVING

CORRESPONDENCE FROM OUR FINES,

PENALTIES, AND FORFEITURES BRANCH IN

THE NEAR FUTURE.


Now, this slip of paper was printed in black ink in below average resolution on plain printer paper. In fact, I'm pretty sure it had been cut from a sheet containing several copies of this same message. Frankly, it looked low-tech, amateurish, and if I hadn't done some research; fake.
...
Here are scans of the letter I got:

Page 2:

And, of course, the claim form :rolleyes:

- Tim
 
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