Bra Smuggle Bid Is Busted, Feds Seize $60,000

Mom and teen daughter tried to sneak cash into U.S.

Bra With Money

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Money Sewn Into Bras

JUNE 11--A Canadian mother and her teenage daughter were found to have nearly $60,000 stuffed in their bras after they were stopped and searched Sunday afternoon as they tried to cross into the U.S. via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, investigators report.

According to a U.S. District Court filing, Moura El-Esmar, 51, and her daughter Jacinta, 16, were passengers in a car driven by a fellow Canadian citizen who El-Esmar identified as her boyfriend.

El-Esmar told border agents that she and her child were being driven to the Detroit airport, where they were booked on a flight to Lebanon (where they planned to visit with relatives for about 10 weeks).

During a search of El-Asmar’s purse, agents found $15,000 in Canadian currency and $300 in U.S. bills, which she failed to declare as required by law. In response to the discovery, Customs and Border Protection officers proceeded to conduct pat downs of El-Asmar and her daughter.

While frisking the older El-Asmar, “a bulky mass was discovered on the bra,” according to a court affidavit. El-Asmar copped to having “money sewn into her bra.” The Canadian cash--found in four separate bags--totaled $39,000.

During questioning, El-Asmar acknowledged that she had also sewn money into her teenager’s bra. A subsequent search recovered two bags from the lining of the girl’s bra (each bag held $10,000 in Canadian currency).

El-Asmar told agents that she “concealed the money for safety” and only declared $3300 at the border crossing because she did not want her boyfriend to know she was so flush. She claimed to have retrieved the currency from her bank safety deposit box, adding that her primary sources of income are her “disability checks and her paper route.”

El-Esmar’s daughter said her mother “sewed currency into her bra and asked her to wear the bra,” but that she “did not know how much money was in the bra,” according to the court filing.

Agents seized the equivalent of about $73,000 in U.S. currency from El-Asmar, who was arrested for bulk cash smuggling, a felony that carries a maximum five-year prison term. She was also charged with making false statements and failing to declare the cash. Her daughter was not arrested.

While the pair’s respective bras were confiscated by federal agents, it is unclear whether the undergarments would be subject to future forfeiture proceedings. (5 pages)