Family’s $500K inheritance seized by U.S. border officials

Family’s $500K inheritance seized by U.S. border officials

An Ottawa man acting as executor of a will says TD Canada Trust gave him “faulty advice” to mail $500,000 in bank drafts to family members in the U.S. — a move that caught the attention of U.S. border officials, who seized the money.

Almost a year later, the money is still stuck at the border. Executor David Saikaley worries the family members may never see their inheritance.

I trusted the bank. I thought they were experts– David Saikaley , executor of will 

“It’s like this money has fallen into a black hole,” said Saikaley.

He was in a rush to send the money, because one beneficiary’s health is quickly deteriorating, and he needs to pay a mounting pile of medical bills.

Saikaley says TD won’t cancel the bank drafts, because it treats the documents as cash. Meanwhile, U.S. border officials won’t release the money, deeming it “counterfeit.” You can’t mail more than $10,000 across the border without notifying officials beforehand. Saikaley says his bank never told him that.

“I had faulty advice,” he said. “I trusted the bank. I thought they were experts. I’m just a high school teacher. I don’t know anything about sending money.

“There’s half a million dollars in limbo and a dying beneficiary. If [he] dies without getting his bequest, I think there’s something wrong with that.”

Saikaley has complained to TD’s ombudsman that the bank that gave him the advice in the first place isn’t doing enough to help him out of the mess.

TD Canada Trust declined CBC’s request for an interview. In a statement, the bank said it has been working with Saikaley to resolve the issue, including providing letters that the bank drafts are indeed authentic.

“We understand that this is a very frustrating situation and always strive to do our best to resolve any issue that a customer may experience and provide support and guidance,” wrote Carly Libman, a senior manager of public affairs at TD.

‘They told me bank drafts’

Saikaley thought he was doing a good deed by agreeing to be the executor of a relative’s will.

Helen Cuccaro was his mother’s cousin. For more than a decade, Saikaley and his wife rented half of her duplex in Old Ottawa South and acted as her caregivers in the final years of her life.

The 92-year-old retired public servant died June 2, 2016.

Cuccaro’s will stated she wanted her five remaining family members — mostly nieces and nephews — in Ohio to split her estate.

Saikaley visited this TD Bank branch on Bank Street in Ottawa last August and says an associate told him bank drafts were the safest and fastest way to send inheritance money to the U.S. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Saikaley visited Cuccaro’s TD Canada Trust branch at Lansdowne Park in August 2017 for advice about how to send the money abroad.

“I asked the associate at the bank what is the best way to send money to the United States when it’s an inheritance and it’s going to Ohio,” he said.

“What is the safest way to send the money? They told me bank drafts. So I took their word and bought the bank drafts right there on the spot — five $100,000 bank drafts.”