Canadian woman charged with smuggling thousands of dollars in bra at U.S. border

A woman believed to be from the Windsor area is in jail in Michigan for allegedly trying to smuggle tens of thousands 0f dollars across the border by padding her bra with cash.

Moura El-Asmar, 51, will have a bail hearing in Detroit. She was arrested on the American side of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel Sunday after she and her 16-year-old daughter, Jacinta, were patted down during secondary inspection.

Both were found to have cash totaling $59,000 sewn into the linings of their bras.

The mother and daughter had a travel itinerary that showed they were catching a flight to Lebanon later that day to visit relatives.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Moura El-Asma told border officers she was carrying $3,300. When her purse was searched in secondary inspection, officers found more than $15,000.

Moura El-Asmar allegedly told the officers she hadn’t counted the money and didn’t realize she had so much.

The total amount was nearly $73,000.

An officer patted her down and noticed what was described as a “bulky mass” on her bra. She was searched and was found to have four bags sewn into her bra. Three bags contained $10,000 each and the fourth had $9,000.

The daughter was searched and was found to be carrying $20,000 in two bags sewn into her bra.

Moura El-Asmar admitted to officers she had sewn the money into the bras, according to the court document. Her daughter said her mother had asked her to wear the cash-laden bra, but she had no idea how much money was in it.

Moura El-Asmar allegedly told the border officers she didn’t want to declare the money because she didn’t want her driver – her boyfriend Michel Barnaba – to know that she had so much money.

Moura El-Asmar allegedly told the border officers she collects a disability pension and has a paper route. Her daughter babysits and another daughter works at a travel agency.

Border officers say they ran a criminal background check on Moura El-Asmar and found she has been convicted in Canada twice for theft under $1,000, in 1992 and 1993. The convictions would prevent her from entering the United States.

She is charged with four offences related to her border stop Sunday.

Besides the crime of lying to border officials, it’s against the law to bring more than $10,000 into the United States without filing a report.

Moura El-Asmar and her daughter are Canadian citizens believed to reside in the Windsor area, said Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The daughter was released, but Moura El Asmar is in the custody of U.S. Marshals.