United States v. Salen - 235 U.S. 237 (1914)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Salen, 235 U.S. 237 (1914)
United States v. Salen
Argued October 23, 1914
Decided November 30, 1914
235 U.S. 237
The suppression clause in the declaration required to be made by agent consignees of imported goods by sub-section 6 of § 28 of the Tariff Act of August 5, 1909, c. 6, 36 Stat. 11, 95, relates to the omission of matter proper to be included in the invoice and account attached, and not to independent facts.
In construing a provision of the Tariff Act relating to entry of merchandise, courts should consider the purpose of such provision in the light of the customs regulations applicable to such entry, and in this case, this Court will not say that one of a number of acts required to be done related to undefined extraneous general matter when all of the other acts related to particular defined subjects connected with the importation.
The meaning of words is affected by their context, and words used in a highly penal statute will be interpreted in a narrower sense as referring to things of the same nature as those described in an enumerated list, although, standing alone, they might have a wider meaning.
This limited interpretation given to subsection 6 of § 28 of the Tariff Act of 1909 does not mean that Congress has deprived the Collector of means of obtaining extraneous information, as there are other statutory provisions for examinations of the owner, consignee. or agent for that purpose.
A statute such as the suppression clause -- subsection 6 of § 28 of the Tariff Act of 1909 -- will not be so interpreted as to spread a net that might catch the unwary as well as the guilty, or in a manner contrary to the fixed rules of interpretation, by making it relate to unenumerated matters as well as those enumerated, thus fixing no standard by which to draw the line between innocent silence and felonious concealment.
Salen was indicted for making false statements in the sworn declaration required if consignees by the Tariff Act of 1909. August 5, 1909, 36 Stat. 93, c. 6. The first five counts charged that, in entering laces in February,
1910, and January and February, 1913, he had falsely sworn that the consular invoices attached were the only invoices covering the shipments, when he well knew that there were others in existence. The court overruled the demurrer to these counts, and they are not involved in this case.
The sixth count related to a declaration made by Salen on March 17, 1913, in making an entry of foreign laces covered by consular invoice No. 7893. Salen was therein charged with having fraudulently concealed from the Collector the existence of certain material facts, and thereby had falsified the required statement in the sworn declaration
"that nothing has been on my part, nor, to my knowledge, on the part of any other person concealed or suppressed whereby the United States may be defrauded of any part of the duty due on said goods."
This count sets out at great length and in narrative form certain evidentiary facts which may be thus summarized:
Salen was the New York agent and primary consignee of Goetz, a French exporter, who, for eight years, had been shipping laces to Salen for sale and delivery to Robinson, the purchaser and ultimate consignee.
When the last consignment arrived in New York, Salen presented the declaration to the Collector, attaching thereto, as required by law, the bill of lading; a list or entry account of the goods, and the consular invoice No. 7893. He paid the duty assessed on the basis of the foreign values as given in the invoice, and thereupon removed the goods and delivered them to Robinson, the purchaser. This count of the indictment further charged that Salen knew that the foreign values had been falsely and fraudulently stated in the previous invoices; that such foreign values named in those invoices were uniformly greatly below the prices at which the laces were sold in the United States; that, in making the declaration as to the shipment represented by consular invoice No. 7893,
Salen concealed the fact that it was one of the series of shipments in which Goetz and Robinson had fraudulently concealed the great and uniform discrepancy between the foreign values named in the invoices and the prices at which the lace was sold in the United States.
It was charged that this concealment was the suppression of a fact by which the United States may have been defrauded of its lawful duty, for if Salen had communicated the facts, the Collector would have called for a reappraisement of the laces, and their undervaluation would have been disclosed.
The defendant demurred on the ground that there was no positive averment that the goods were undervalued, but only an argumentative statement of facts the existence of which did not raise the legal conclusion that there was any undervaluation, and that the count failed to charge facts sufficient to constitute an offense under subsection 6 of § 28 of the act of August 5, 1909, or any other statute of the United States. The demurrer was sustained on the ground that the facts stated did not constitute an offense under the statute, and the case was then brought here by the government under the Criminal Appeals Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246.