SAN FRANCISCO -- Thousands of ammunition rounds hidden in cars on a container ship were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Oakland, federal authorities said Thursday.
The 2,300 rounds of ammunition were found in early December by federal officers, concealed in the air filters of three personal vehicles destined for Mongolia, said Frank Falcon, CBP spokesman for the San Francisco Field Office.
On Jan. 25, officers formally seized all of the items including a 2006 Lexus RX400, a 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser and a 2007 Toyota Camry. The undeclared ammunition included a Winchester .22-caliber long rifle and Remington 12-gauge shotgun shells.
The value of the seized merchandise is worth more than $45,000, Falcon said.
The vehicles belonged to a Bay Area resident whose identity is not being released by authorities because no criminal charges have been filed.
"The penalty was the resident had to forfeit the items," Falcon said.
Failure to declare and attempt to smuggle the ammunition violates multiple federal regulations which include the requirement for a license to export munitions from the Department of State.
Falcon said the process of seizing undeclared items is often lengthy.
"We inspect the item and if we find something isn't right, we have it pulled from the shipping line," Falcon said. "The item is then transferred to another location then emptied entirely."
If officers find something, an investigation takes place and they determine if a law has been violated, then formally seize the item, he said.
"CBP is charged with protecting our nation's borders and enforcing U.S. laws on all goods and persons entering or departing the country," said Brian J. Humphrey, CBP Director of Field Operations in San Francisco. "Attempting to circumvent these laws and evade detection is taken seriously, and violators will pay the price."
Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.