A Merritt couple twice caught smuggling tobacco from the U.S. across the Osoyoos border will have to pay a fine 50 times that of what would have been the duty owed.
Neil Timothy Shackelly and Dion Gwendolyn Aljam pleaded guilty in Penticton provincial court on Monday to charges related to two instances (Dec. 11, 2017 and Feb. 24, 2018) where they were caught lying to border guards, verbally stating they did not have any tobacco to declare.
Secondary inspections by border guards on both instances turned up various tobacco products, totalling 102 grams of loose tobacco and 6.608 kilograms of tobacco products. They were fined a total of $8,153.64.
“There is a highly aggravating factor here that this would be your second folly, or second offence, of this nature in just a little over two months. So you were caught in December, you knew this was improper but you went back down and you did this again,” said Judge Michelle Daneliuk. “When you think about it, it is really something that is foolish to do when the duty owed was only $161. 70. Just paying the duty owed it was such a relatively small expense.”
The couple does not have a criminal history and while they had a “scoresheet” of who paid them what amount of money and for what quantity of tobacco, the court would not go as far as saying they were selling it to make a profit.
Defence counsel Norman Yates told the court that they were taking tobacco orders from people and did not realize they would get into the trouble that they did.
Crown counsel Jeremy Burgess said the couple was flagged after they were first discovered on a secondary inspection to have lied to border guards. Just over two months later they were again at the Osoyoos port of entry after a day trip to Omak and were sent to secondary inspection after not declaring any tobacco purchases.
The officer discovered tobacco products in the vehicle and Shackelly, who is a member of the Nooatch First Nations, told the border guard it was his and he had bought the tobacco on “Indian territory and there should be no duty or taxes on it.”
Daneliuk ordered the couple to pay the minimum fine of $1,826.82 each for the two false declarations of unstamped tobacco products, $1,750 each for smuggling goods across the border and another $500 each for the second attempt to bring undeclared goods across the border.
The couple have 12 months to pay the fines.
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