Sunday, October 21, 2007

Judge Rolls Out Fines for Car Scam at Border

(Jamie Hall — Edmonton Journal)

An Edmonton man who lied to Canada Customs in an attempt to save $1,400 in import fees for a $47,000 luxury vintage car he purchased in the U.S. will wind up paying more than $12,000 in fines and taxes.

James David Bodman, 55, pleaded guilty in Calgary provincial court Friday to violating the Customs Act, making false statements.

In April, Bodman drove a 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud through the 24-hour border crossing at Coutts, south of Lethbridge. He declared $20,700 US for the vehicle – for which he would have been charged about $1,400 Cdn in import duties and taxes – when he had actually paid $47,000 US.

“He was trying to save a buck,” said Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Lisa White, “and now he has a criminal record.” Bodman, who works in construction, was fined $1,860 in provincial court after entering the guilty plea.

He is also required to pay import duties and taxes to reflect the value of the vehicle, roughly $3,000.

In addition, Bodman had to pay $7,700 in civil penalties to retrieve his vehicle, which was seized at the border in April.

Bodman’s Edmonton lawyer, Alex Pringle, told the court his client received some bad advice before heading to the U.S. to pick up the vehicle and was “very embarrassed” by the incident.

Bodman declined comment when reached Friday by phone at his Edmonton home.

White said the case is a cautionary tale for Albertans, an increasing number of whom are purchasing personal vehicles in the U.S. and driving them back to Canada.

Despite the recent surge in the Canadian dollar, cars can be substantially less expensive to buy in the U.S.

The border crossing in Coutts, for instance, which is a main Alberta portal that operates 24 hours a day, sees an average of 65 such vehicles a day.

Some have been purchased on EBay, others through dealerships or private transactions.

“This is a really hot topic now,” said White, “and people need to know before they go pick up their car what the rules and regulations are.

“They need to be truthful about declaring the real value of their vehicles because if they don’t, they will be caught.