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Homeland Security Stole Michael Arrington's Boat 812

An anonymous reader writes "Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, lives near Seattle and bought a boat there. He ordered it from a company based near him, but across the border in Canada. Yesterday, the company tried to deliver it to him, and it had to clear customs. An agent for the Department of Homeland Security asked him to sign a form. The form contained information about the boat, including its cost. The price was correct, but it was in U.S. dollars rather than Canadian dollars. Since the form contained legal warnings about making sure everything on it is true and accurate, Arrington suggested to the agent that they correct the error. She responded by seizing the boat. 'As in, demanded that we get off the boat, demanded the keys and took physical control of it. What struck me the most about the situation is how excited she got about seizing the boat. Like she was just itching for something like this to happen. This was a very happy day for her. ... A person with a gun and a government badge asked me to swear in writing that a lie was true today. And when I didn't do what she wanted she simply took my boat and asked me to leave.'"
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Homeland Security Stole Michael Arrington's Boat

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  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:24AM (#42979717) Journal

    Ask to have the paperwork re-done

    Isn't that what got his boat confiscated?

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:26AM (#42979745) Homepage

    Otherwise you wouldn't have been an asshole about the whole thing. Make the correction, initial it, and sign the bottom. Ask to have the paperwork re-done and make an appointment to come back when it's ready.

    Did you read the whole article?

    The primary form, prepared by the government, had an error. The price was copied from the invoice, but DHS changed the currency from Canadian to U.S. dollars.

    It has language at the bottom with serious sounding statements that the information is true and correct, and a signature block.

    I pointed out the error and suggested that we simply change the currency from US $ to CAD $ so that is was correct. Or instead, amend the amount so that it was correct in U.S. dollars.

    I thought this was important because I was signing it and swearing that the information, and specifically the price, was correct.

    The DHS agent didnâ(TM)t care about the error and told me to sign the form anyway. "It's just paperwork, it doesn't matter," she said. I declined.

    He did try to fix it, and the DHS agents acted like morons.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @11:32AM (#42979835) Homepage

    If the document stated the price in US dollars and was clearly marked as being US dollars why would one care that they paid Canadian Dollars if the paper had the correct exchange rate and listed it in US dollars

    Dude, seriously, it's in the article ... they took the Canadian dollar value, turned it into American dollars (incorrectly), and asked him to sign a form under oath that what the form said was true.

    The government form was wrong, he tried to fix it, they became assholes and confiscated his boat.

    I'm entirely willing to believe some DHS agent went off and acted like an idiot when he was trying to reasonably fix a clerical error.

  • Re:They told me (Score:4, Informative)

    by nickscalise ( 702579 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:05PM (#42980303)

    His point was it really did not matter who he voted for. The crap continues.

    Or, it could be that the folks who told him that were just saying ANYTHING to keep Romney from being elected. Because their guy was already giving them stuff, and they did not want to stop receiving stuff.
  • Re:so what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by evil_aaronm ( 671521 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:08PM (#42980355)
    No guns drawn on us, but my wife and I, who really like Happy Jack's in Fort Erie, have lost a bit of desire to go there for lunch because of the assholes manning the US side of the border. On special occasions, we'll push our luck and go, and the Canadians are always cool about it. The Americans are almost always total power-tripping buttheads.
  • Re:so what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by stiggle ( 649614 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:17PM (#42980485)

    The paperwork was government supplied, not his. His paperwork showed the correct amount in Canadian dollars.
    He tried to get the paperwork fixed at the time and the agent refused to amend to show the correct currency to him to sign a truthful document.

    Remember there is also an exchange rate difference between US & Canadian dollars (although its not much).
    So writing down that the boat is worth $100k USD when its actually only worth $98212 USD ($100k CAN) impacts on the import taxes you have to pay.

  • Re:LOL ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:37PM (#42980777)
    This is what happens when a fearful and ignorant populace allows their rights to be ripped away from them in the name of "security". I am loathe to play the Nazi card, but the empowerment of previously powerless, disenfranchised, and yes, often stupid people was played out the same way in 1930's Germany. If we, as a citizenry, do not turn out every one of the bastards who brought this level absurdity to our lives, we deserve everything we get.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:45PM (#42980895) Homepage Journal

    The guy refused to sign the import documents which would release the boat and then is surprised when they didn't release the boat?

    He refused to commit perjury, and was then surprised--as most people would be--when he was punished for his refusal to commit perjury. How hard is this to understand?

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:12PM (#42981247) Journal

    Since the CAD is currently weaker than the dollar, having declared it in USD instead of CAD would be adverse to the government, which actually makes it easier. (It depends on the exchange rate at the date of export, but based on today.)
    (Rulings adverse to the importer entered after Dec 2004 actually HAVE to come from a formal protest.) []

    19CFR 173:
    Â 173.1 Authority to review for error.
    Port directors have broad responsibility and authority to review transactions to ensure that the rate and amount of duty assessed on imported merchandise is correct and that the transaction is otherwise in accordance with the law. This authority extends to errors in the construction of a law and to errors adverse to the Government as well as the importer.
    [T.D. 70-181, 35 FR 13429, Aug. 22, 1970, as amended by T.D. 79-221, 44 FR 46830, Aug. 9, 1979]

    Â 173.2 Transactions which may be reviewed and corrected.
    The port director may review transactions for correctness, and take appropriate action under his general authority to correct errors, including those in appraisement where appropriate, at the time of:
    (a) Liquidation of an entry;
    (b) Voluntary reliquidation completed within 90 days after liquidation;
    (c) Voluntary correction of an exaction within 90 days after the exaction was made;
    (d) Reliquidation made pursuant to a valid protest covering the particular merchandise as to which a change is in order; or
    (e) Modification, pursuant to a valid protest, of a transaction or decision which is neither a liquidation or reliquidation.

    Â 173.4a Correction of clerical error prior to liquidation.
    Pursuant to section 520(a)(4), Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1520(a)(4)), the port director may, prior to liquidation of an entry, take appropriate action to correct a clerical error that resulted in the deposit or payment of excess duties, fees, charges, or exactions.
    [T.D. 85-123, 50 FR 29957, July 23, 1985]

    Â 162.23 Seizure under section 596(c), Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1595a(c)).
    (d) Seizure under 19 U.S.C. 1592. If merchandise is imported, introduced or attempted to be introduced contrary to a provision of law governing its classification or value, and there is no issue of admissibility, such merchandise shall not be seized pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1595a(c). Any seizure of such merchandise shall be in accordance with section 1592 (see  162.75 of this chapter).

    As I understand the circumstances, on importation he performed what's called 'prior disclosure' - (Â 162.74 Prior disclosure.) identifying orally or in writing to the customs officer of the violation, before an actual investigation was begun. In this case the importer is supposed to tender any potential penalties/duties (in this case, none, since the import value was actually LOWER than declared) .

    And finally:
    Â 162.75 Seizures limited under section 592, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended.
    (a) When authorized. Merchandise may be seized for violation of section 592, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1592) only if the port director has reasonable cause to believe that a person has violated the statute and that
    (1) The person is insolvent,
    (2) The person is beyond the jurisdiction of the United States,
    (3) Seizure otherwise is essential to protect the revenue, or
    (4) Seizure is essential to prevent the introduction of prohibited or restricted merchandise into the Customs territory of the United States.
    (b) No seizure if prior disclosure. Under no circumstances shall merchandise be seized under the authority of 19 U.S.C. 1592 if there has been a prior disclosure of the violatio

  • Re:so what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (cib73rag)> on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:31PM (#42981465)

    I'm a boat owner (cruising sailboat, presently 'dry' while I repair the hull). The boatyard where it is kept includes boats and owners of all kinds. The majority of boat owners in my experience in New England is carpenters, guys who have a small business (single restaurant, dry cleaning shop, a guy who transports cars for a living, etc.) There are a few doctors and lawyers, a couple of $1MM+ catamarans, but most of the boats were bought used for $10,000 to $100,000. These folks are just everyday folks. Some people ski for a hobby, some drive boats around. The annual cost for most boat owners is about the same as the skiers - marina costs run $3000 to $10,000 per year depending on the boat, the location, and the amenities. If I had my boat in the water, at the two places I've been it would be costing me either $75 or $105 per foot for six months. It's a 44 foot boat for the purposes of calculating the cost.

    Power boat prices have been down just like house prices because many people used their house equity to get into a boat that was too big & expensive, the value of the boat was less than they owed, and they let boat got repossessed right before or after their house got foreclosed. The price of fuel is also a big consideration for power boats - a 36 foot power boat with twin 340-HP gas engines may burn from 1/6 to 2 gallons per mile depending on how you drive it - below 'hull speed' of 6 knots or thereabouts, boats are much more efficient. A "Cigarette"-typeT go-fast boat may cost $100 per hour to drive.

    For two or three years there has been a glut on the market, especially at the very low end - a lot of folks just walked away from their old, paid-for boat, leaving the marina to finally take the boat for the back slip fees. So you can go to most marinas right now and find a pretty good boat that maybe needs a bit of work, and the marina may just give it to you if you will pay a year's slip fees in advance.

    Sailboat prices did not slump the same way, in part because apparently sailboaters tend to be more conservative about money - i.e. they're cheap. :) They tend not to buy more boat than they could afford. But according to the folks at the boat show I just attended, things are picking up at all levels.

  • This happened to me (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:21PM (#42981989) Journal
    going the opposite direction. I just notated on the form which information was false but that the agent insisted I needed to sign it regardless of whether it was true. They didn't seem too happy about that but let me through anyways.
  • Re:so what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rhsanborn ( 773855 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:38PM (#42982189)
    This was addressed in the comments on the article. He offered to make the change, the agent informed him he wasn't allowed to change the form.

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