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United States v. C.H. Robinson Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

July 28, 2014

UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
C.H. ROBINSON COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant

Appeal from the United States Court of International Trade in No. 06-CV-0434, Judge Leo M. Gordon.

STEVEN M. MAGER, Senior Trial Counsel, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, of Washington, DC, argued for plaintiff appellee. With him on the brief were STUART F. DELERY, Assistant Attorney General, JEANNE E. DAVIDSON, Director, PATRICIA M. MCCARTHY, Assistant Director, and SHELLEY WEGER, Trial Attorney. Of counsel on the brief was ANDREW KOSEGI, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel, United States Customs and Border Protection, Indianapolis, Indiana.

RICHARD F. O'NEILL, Neville Peterson LLP, of New York, New York, argued for defendant-appellant. With him on the brief was JOHN M. PETERSON.

Before O'MALLEY, REYNA, and WALLACH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1377

Reyna, Circuit Judge.

C.H. Robinson Company (" C.H. Robinson" ) appeals the final decision of the U.S. Court of International Trade finding C.H. Robinson liable for duties, taxes, and fees for certain entries of wearing apparel from China. United States v. C.H. Robinson Co., 880 F.Supp.2d 1335 (Ct. Int'l Trade 2012). For the reasons below, we affirm.

Background

This appeal arises out of an action brought by the United States against C.H. Robinson, a Customs-bonded carrier, to recover certain duties, taxes, and fees under Section 553 of the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. § 1553, and 19 C.F.R. § 18.8(c). Specifically, the Government seeks to recover duties, taxes, and fees accrued for three entries (" subject entries" ) of wearing apparel from the People's Republic of China (" subject merchandise" ), which entered the United States as Transportation & Exportation (" T& E" ) entries but were never exported and are currently " missing."

The subject merchandise entered the United States in December 2001 at the Port of Los Angeles under T& E numbers 609.203.744, 609.203.873, and 609.203.862. Intercambio Comercial Ekim S.A. (" Intercambio" ), a Mexican company, was the importer of record and consignee of the subject merchandise. The T& E entry documents designated C.H. Robinson as the bonded carrier and indicated that the merchandise was to be delivered to the care of L.E. Forwarding & Freight Broker

Page 1378

(" L.E. Forwarding" ) in Laredo, Texas, for exportation to Mexico. C.H. Robinson engaged Mario's Transports Inc. to transport the subject merchandise from Los Angeles to Laredo.

Although there is no dispute that the subject merchandise left Los Angeles, it is not clear what happened to the merchandise after that. What is known is that, on January 2 and 4, 2002, Mario Peña, Inc. (" Peña" ), a U.S. licensed customs broker, stamped the T& E entry documents (Customs Forms 7512) at an unmonitored stamp machine in the lobby of the export lot of the U.S. Customs Service (" Customs" ) at the Port of Laredo. Peña did not transport the subject merchandise to the export lot, nor did he see, inspect, or take possession of the subject merchandise. Peña's official log book shows receipt of the T& E entry forms, but does not show a corresponding date of exportation for each entry.

Customs never inspected or took possession of the subject merchandise at the Port of Laredo. At the time, Customs used a self-regulating process at the Port of Laredo in which Customs did not supervise exportation or require carriers to report their arrival at the port of destination or the exportation of the merchandise. Instead, Customs relied on a post-audit system designed to ensure compliance with procedures for T& E entries. Through this post-audit system, Customs selectively required carriers to demonstrate disposition of the merchandise upon Customs' request. The ...


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