United States v. Zucker
161 U.S. 475 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Zucker, 161 U.S. 475 (1896)

United States v. Zucker

No. 794

Argued January 14, 1896

Decided March 2, 1896

161 U.S. 475




In an action against importers brought to recover from them the value of merchandise, originally belonging to them, and alleged to have been forfeited to the United States under the provisions of the Customs Administrative Act of June 10, 1890, c. 407, § 9, the defendants cannot demand as of right that they shall be confronted at the trial with witnesses who testify in behalf of the government.

The case is stated in the opinion.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

By the Act of June 10, 1890, c. 407, § 9, 26 Stat. 131, 135, known as the "Customs Administrative Act," it is provided that

"if any owner, importer, consignee, agent, or other person shall make or attempt to make any entry of imported merchandise by means of any fraudulent or false invoice, affidavit, letter, paper, or by means of any false statement, written or verbal, or by means of any false or fraudulent practice or appliance whatsoever, or shall be guilty of any willful act or omission by means whereof the United Stated shall be deprived of the lawful duties or any portion thereof accruing upon the merchandise or any portion thereof embraced or referred to in such invoice, affidavit, letter, paper, or statement or affected by such act or omission, such merchandise or the value thereof to be recovered from the person making the entry shall be forfeited, which forfeiture shall only apply to the whole of the merchandise or the value thereof in the case or package containing the particular article or articles of merchandise to

Page 161 U. S. 476

which such fraud or false paper or statement relates, and such person shall, upon conviction, be fined for each offense a sum not exceeding five thousand dollars, or be imprisoned for a time not exceeding two years, or both, in the discretion of the court."

The present action was brought to recover from the defendants the sum of $346.02, as the value of certain merchandise originally belonging to them and alleged to have been forfeited to the United States under the above statute.

The complaint, which is in the form prescribed by the New York Code of Civil Procedure, alleged that on or about December 14, 1891, certain described merchandise was imported into the United States at the port of New York, and, when so imported, was subject to the payment of duties; that the defendants, the owners, importers, and consignees of such merchandise, entered the same at the office of the collector, to whom was produced a duly certified invoice purporting to show the actual cost of the merchandise, and also a declaration, which entry and declaration were signed and verified in the manner and form required by law; that said entry, invoice, affidavit, and paper were false and fraudulent, as the defendants well knew, in that the actual cost of such merchandise was greater than the amount stated therein, and that the defendants willfully and wrongfully concealed the actual cost of such merchandise, whereby the United States had been deprived of the lawful duties, or a portion thereof, accruing upon the same.

The defendants made a general denial of each allegation of the plaintiff. As separate defenses they pleaded: 1. that the merchandise mentioned in the complaint was not forfeited; 2. that the action was not brought against the person making the entry of the merchandise in the complaint specified; 3. that the duties and all goods imported by them during the times specified in the complaint had been liquidated and paid by them, and such merchandise delivered to them as the owners thereof, all without fraud, and that more than one year had elapsed since the date of the entry referred to by the United States.

Page 161 U. S. 477

At the trial below, the government, to sustain the issues on its part, offered to read in evidence a deposition that had been duly taken in Paris, France, and was properly authenticated and certified under letters rogatory, properly issued and returned.

The defendants objected to the admission of this testimony upon the following grounds: 1. that this action, though civil in form, was in substance a criminal case, and, under the Constitution of the United States, the defendants were entitled on the trial "to be confronted with the witnesses

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