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Old 04-05-2004, 07:49 PM
Bigben 0548 Bigben 0548 is offline
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Default Court will examine how U.S. pursues wire fraud cases

Court will examine how U.S. pursues wire fraud cases

WASHINGTON (AP) The Supreme Court will use the appeal of three men prosecuted in a multimillion dollar booze smuggling ring to clarify when the U.S. government can pursue wire fraud charges, the court said Monday.
The men were accused of sneaking thousands of cases of whisky, vodka and rum into Canada from the USA, in customized cars.

Canada did not pursue the trio for tax evasion, but American prosecutors did and they were convicted of violating a U.S. fraud law and sentenced to prison.

"The courts of this country should not become the world's tax courts," justices were told by Los Angeles attorney Laura Brill, representing the men.

The case, which will be argued next fall, requires justices to clarify the bounds of federal wire and mail fraud laws.

The government contends that brothers David and Carl Pasquantino of Niagara Falls, N.Y. headed the operation that shipped about 40,000 cases of liquor from stores in Maryland to the black market in southern Ontario, from 1996 to 2000, avoiding nearly $6 million in taxes. The third man, Arthur Hilts, was accused of being a carrier.

Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the court that the fraud law covers schemes that defraud a foreign government of taxes, despite a long-standing rule barring foreign governments from using U.S. courts to collect lost revenues.

The Supreme Court also agreed to decide whether police can use drug-sniffing dogs to check out motorists pulled over for speeding or other reasons, but who have given police no particular reason to suspect they may be carrying drugs.

Lower courts have been divided over whether police must have some reason to suspect illegal activity before they allow a dog to sniff around a car during an ordinary traffic stop.

The case is another in a long line of Supreme Court cases involving cars and traffic stops. As in past cases, the case of Roy Caballes of Illinois tests police power to look for evidence of wrongdoing against the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches or seizures.

Also, the court said Monday it will not get involved in a patent dispute concerning a division of Halliburton, the energy and government contracting company formerly led by Vice President Cheney.

Lawyers for Halliburton Energy Services Inc. appealed to the high court after a lower court ordered Halliburton to pay $98 million to a rival. A competitor, BJ Services Co., had sued for patent infringement over a particular method of extracting oil and natural gas.

The case is unrelated to recent allegations of price-gouging, bribes and kickbacks in Halliburton's multibillion-dollar contracts to provide services for the military in Iraq. The company denies wrongdoing.

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