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Man sentenced for smuggling cash into airport

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced a Fayetteville man to prison for smuggling more than $100,000 into Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Stephen Willoughby, 37, was convicted of bulk cash smuggling in January, after a trial presided over by Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. He was sentenced to one year, nine months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Pannell also ordered Willoughby to perform 100 hours of community service.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said Willoughby came under scrutiny by federal officers because he previously imported a large amount of cash on a direct flight from London, England, and failed to properly declare it.

"As a result, Customs and Border Patrol officers had placed a lookout on him and were watching for his arrival at the international terminal of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport," she said. "Upon landing, Willoughby filled out a declaration form, presented it to CBP passport inspectors, declared that he was carrying less than $10,000 in currency, and told CBP officers that he was carrying a mere $100."

A subsequent search of Willoughby's luggage and a pat-down of his body led to the discovery of $106,802 in U.S. currency. 

“This defendant attempted to smuggle excessive amounts of cash through the world’s busiest airport on two separate occasions," said Yates. "The laws requiring international travelers to declare more than $10,000 in cash when entering or leaving the United States serve to prevent money laundering and financing of a variety of illegal conduct. We will continue to vigorously enforce these laws.”

Federal agent Brock D. Nicholson said seizing ill-gotten gains is the most effective method of crippling criminal operations.

“The common denominator for most transnational criminal activity is bulk cash," said Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “By targeting and seizing the illicit proceeds being moved into, and out of, the United States, we are really hitting these criminal organizations where it hurts –– on their bottom lines.”

Nicholson oversees HSI activities in Georgia and the Carolinas.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and Customs and Border Protection.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Radics and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dahil Goss prosecuted the case.