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35th Cong....Ist Sess.
De Visser and Villarubia--Mr. Toombs.
a year? What is the object of your rule? It is tiplication. The amount of the invoice on which amount of forfeiture of which the custom-house to prevent legislation, at the end of a session, in duty was to be charged was reduced very consid - officers, and probably the clerks themselves by this hurried manner; to require the safeguard oferably, so as to make on that single importation whose omission these transactions occurred, are an estimate; to require the recommendation of a a difference of some two thousand dollars. This to be beneficiaries.
Mr. SLIDELL. In order to relieve the Senastanding committee. But, sir, I do not know that discovery was not made until some weeks, or it is worth while to urge this matter. I see that perhaps months, after the entry of the sugar; and
tor from any embarrassment on that score, I will this amendment is to pass, and I do not believe ihe sugar had been discharged and had passed into state that probably I should have known nothing that all the rules that ever were made will stand the warehouses of these gentlemen. When the
of this case, and should not have thought proper in the way of it.
discovery was made, the sugar was seized; all to interpose if the officers of the custom-house Mr. BAYARD. I trust the Senate will rather the facts were submitted to a jury, and a verdict had not called my attention to it. adjourn than violate so plain a rule of order as in favor of the claimants of the sugar was ren
Mr. TOOMBS. I had no doubt whatever it was must be violated if we receive this proposition. I dered. If the sugar had been seized on board a question of forfeiture with clerks who are enam aware that the Senate is impatient, and I shall ship, the case would have been on the admiralty deavoring to visit these heavy penalties on gentlenot say more than a word or two.
At the same side of the district court, and there would have nien, whom the evidence taken before a judicial time, I deprecate the idea that under an immedi been no intervention of a jury. Be that as it may,
tribunal shows to be entirely innocent, to justify ate excitement connected with a trivial measure, the law officer at New Orleans, and his superiors themselves for their own gross neglect. Any in some respects, a great general rule of the Sen- | here, think that the charge of the court to the Senator who will read the petition in this case ate should be violated. I am in favor of the prop- jury, which probably caused their decision in this cannot doubt for an instant as to what ought to osition on iis coming properly before the Senate. case, is obnoxious to very grave objections in
be done. It seems that these two gentlemen, I agree that the reporters of the Senate are enti- | point of law, and they have appealed from the de- | Messrs. De Visser and Villarubia, bought out a ded, properly-not because a different course de cision of the districi court to the circuit court, concern then existing in New Orleans, as import. grades them, but because it degrades ourselves in which sits, I think (my colleague can inform me, ers of sugars. The old house had a clerk who had not doing justice to them-to the same compensa: for he is more familiar with the details) towards attended to the business of passing their commodLion you give for similar labor in the House of the end of this month; or, at any rate, in the be ities through the custom-house. The new firm Representatives. I agree to that; but for all that, ginning of June. If the decision of the circuit took him in at the rate of one eighth. He was or for any purpose, I am not willing to introduce court should affirm that of the district court, 1 really a clerk, but they gave him a compensation a precedent which violates so plainly the order of shall have nothing further to say on this subject. of one eighth of the profits, and afterwards carthe Senate, and puts down entirely every rule or It involves a very great principle.
ried it to fifteen per cent., his whole duty being to The fraud which was the subject of controversy
role against receiving it. I believe the rules, as the ner who made intele enuries at the custom-un pase;
attend to the entries of the custom-house, he beily. I must vote against the proposition to re in the particular case that I have alluded to, wag ing acquainted with the language in which the ceive the amendment.
but one of a series of frauds, extending back for original invoices were drawn, and familiar with Mr. TRUMBULL. I am in favor of the amend
some two or three yenrs, including some thirty custom-house business. They dealt to a very large ment offered by the Senator from Mississippi; but or forty entries, if I mistake not, and involving a
amount through the custom-house. It is in eviI do not think, with my understanding of the loss of revenue, if they had not been discovered,
dence before the judicial tribunal which tried the rules, that it ,
case that these gentlemen paid to their clerk every
dollar of the amount of duties due according to Senator from Georgia has said, are made for mi-charged the firm with the full amount of the du the correct invoices, that they checked for it, and norities; and if majorities are to set them aside ties that ought to have been levied on the invoices; that he went to the bank and drew the money, they will do no good. Majorities need no rules. but by a fraudulent change in the invoices he was
then went to the custom-house where he comThey are for the benefit of the minority; and if it enabled to enter the goods at a much lower rate
mitted the frauds. In some cases they were done is insisted upon, therefore, that a question of order of duty, and he pocketed the difference between by the simple running out of figures, which would is to be made, I move that the Senate adjourn; and the amount which ought to have been paid, and
have been detected but for the carelessness of the let this amendment come from a committee. the amount which was actually paid under these officers of the Government. By a simple mistake Mr. HUNTER. Let us finish it. fraudulent invoices. It does not appear, I am
in the figures in turning the Spanish money into The motion was agreed 10; there being, on willing to admit, that Messrs. De Visser and Vil .our money he would orientimes filch ihrer, four,
or five hundred dollars. This went on for three a division-ayes 25, noes 15; and the Senate larubia, the remaining partners in the firm, had adjourned.
any cognizance of these frauds, or in any degree or four years by the grossest negligence of the
profited by the perjury and fraud of their part- officers of the United States themselves-chese DE VISSER AND VILLARUBIA-CUSTOM-HOUSE ner; but it is a very grave question whether a com- very clerks who are pressing the forfeitures. The FRAUDS AT NEW ORLEANS.
mercial house is not responsible, morally, if it is evidence supporting ihis claim is all before me ju
not legally, to the Government for the acts of its dicially settled-it is not in pais-and I will read DEBATE IN THE SENATE, partners, however innocent its other members
the decision of the commissioner and the statemay have been of any participation in them. That ment of the district attorney. This man, as I said, FRIDAY, May 14, 1858.
is the question. Thai question is to be submit who is charged as a full partner, had but a special Mr. Hunter's motion to reconsider the vote passing the ted to the circuit court of the United States, and duty to perform, that of passing the invoices and bill for the relief of Simon De Visser and José Villarubia, will be decided in a few weeks.
paying the duties, and it iurns out upon examinaof New Orleans, having been agreed to
I admit the case is a very hard one. These
tion of the evidence before the court, and by the Mr. SLIDELL. I have no disposition at all to gentlemen for a time suffered in reputation and
examination of the books of these gentlemen, wlio enter into any discussion of the merits of this case. character from the act of a dishonest partner; but
seem to be as honorable merchants as their felI merely wish to present a fact for the considera I have a letter here from the district attorney-I
lows from all account, that they paid every dime tion of the Senate that I think will be conclusive will not occupy the time of the Senate in reading of the legal duties. They checked for the money with the majority. The purpose of the bill is to it-in which he points out exceptions to the charge and he drew it out of the bank, and by the neglirelieve Messrs. De Visser & Co. from all penal of the district court to the jury, which I think gence of the officers of the Government he was ties and forfeitures incurred in consequence of tenable and well founded; but at any rate this case allowed to steal on single invoices sometimes two fraudulent invoices of some sugar that was entered being now on appeal to the circuit court, and very hundreu, sometimes three hundred dollars, and at New Orleans. I am inclined to think, in fact I soon about to be decided, involving very grave again would forge invoices instead of giving the am willing to concede from an examination of the questions of law and a large amouni of money, true ones, thereby cheating the Governmeni out testimony, that the now members of that house, because the claim against De Visser & Co., 1 of large amounts of duty. the other partners of the house, were entirely in- | think, amounts to $200,000 for various penalties
When this was discovered at the custom-house, nocent of all fraudulent intention; that they were and forfeitures-I consider it but right that the
the oflicers did not communicate with this house; the victims of a misplaced confidence in one of question should be submitted to the action of that but knowing that he was in this scrape, and huvtheir partners. I shall now only move to postpone court. If it should be decided by that court that ing confessed it to the officers of the Government, the further consideration of this bill until Decem these gentlemen are in no sense legally or morally they allowed him to remain two or three days ber next, and I will state very briefly the reasons responsible for the act of their partner, I certainly
without communicating the facts to the other that induce me to do so. shall have no disposition to contest any measure
partners, gave him an opportunity to run away, A full investigation of this case was had in the of relief that may be brought forward, however
which he did, and then arrested these two gentle. district court of the United States at New Orleans. | early at the next session of Congress; but for the
men for frauds on the United States. The case De Visser & Co. were large importers of sugars
moment I think we should at least let this matter went through a thorough examination, and I will and other merchandise from Havana to the port be considered by the appellate court. I will not
read to the Senate the admissions of the commisof New Orleans. There is no imputation upon enter into any discussion as to the pariicular facts
sioner of the United States and the district altorthe good faith of the larger portion of the mem of the case, but I move now to postpone the fur ney: bers of the firm; their character is not impeached. ther consideration of the bill until the first Mon
• The district attorney waiving all opposition or reply to
the appeal of the defense, the commissioner said he was But a person of ihe name of Météyé, a full partner day in December next. If that motion shall fail,
prepared to pronounce his opinion promptly; that he could in the concern, having, it is true, but a small share I will then state to the Senate all the circum see no evidence and no circumstance implicating the genin the profits--I think some fifteen or sixteen per stances of the case, and dispute the bill upon its tlemen, as they were charged in the transactions of Méléye; cent. in lieu of salary-was employed to transact merits.
and, at the request of the defense, he promised to give a their custom-house business. A discovery was Mr. TOOMBS. I oppose the postponement of
written certificate to that effect for the satisfaction of the
gentlemen. made, almost accidentally, that an invoice of two
It was referred to the Committee on "The district allorney then said, that now, as the case hundred boxes of sugar, which, it appeared after Commerce, of which I am a member, and sub was fairly closed, he teli it incumbent on bim, in justice to wards, had been fabricated in New Orleans, was mitted by that committee to me. The facts are
the gentlemen accused, as well as to the cause oferuin, 10
express his entire concurrence in the decision of the com a forgery, by a simple substitution of one set of full, clear, and distinct beyond all sort of question, missioner. The examination, he was free to say, had refigures for another, by carrying out a false mul- ll and I suppose the main difficulty is as to the sulted as he had believed it would, though he was impeiled,
35th Cong....1st Sess.
SENATE. by a sense of duty to the Government, to prosecute the of which Congress cannot divest them by legis- | Every dollar was paid by them according to the matter thus far. He was gratified to find that his own pri
lation. I submit that point to the consideration true amount of the invoices. They paid the money vate convictions were eo conipletely demonstrated to be correct as they were by the result of ihe examination."
of the Senator from Georgia. The Secretary un. to this clerk, who cheated the Government by They had no participation in the frauds. They questionably, can remita penalty; and in remitting running the Spanish reals out into dollars. H?
it, as regards the United States, he has a right to would cheat the Government two or three hundred paid the correct amount of duties according to the
say that the custom-house officers shall be en dollars on every invoice, and the custom-house of original invoices. The frauds were committed by titled to no share of any forfeiture that may be ficers could have detected it in a moment, if they this man, who received fifteen percent. of thc prof; made; but this is a very different question; I am had made the calculation as they ought to have its, as clerk's hire, for doing this business, instead inclined to think, a new one. of a standing salary, he having belonged to the rights vested in these officers by the seizure, which
If there be any done.
Mr. POLK. I should like to be distinctly in. old house whom they purchased out, and recommended by that house to them, and not knowing
the Secretary cannot remit, I doubt whether, by formed whether this house of De Visser & Co.
any constitutional action of Congress, the rights have paid the duties to which the Government anything of his character more than that. Sub
of officers of the custom-house can be divested. was really entitled, or whether the only thing in sequently the leading merchants of New Orleans
Mr. TOOMBS. There is no difficulty what | controversy is the penalties on the seizure ai lúe appointed a committee to examine the books of those gentlemen, and I will read what they say.
ever in the suggestion of the Senator from Louis- | custom-house?
jana. There is no vested right in forfeitures by Mr. BENJAMIN. The Government had the Mr. SLIDELL. Allow me to suggest to the anybody. I take it the Senator will find that to choice of sucing for the duties as a debt, or for Senator from Georgia that I think I have admitted that there is no shadow of suspicion attaching by this Government from the beginning. There house the back duties, they have preferred to sue
be a universal principle of law; one practiced upon the forfeitures. Instead of claiming from this to the character of these gentlemen, and I think, that point being conceded, he may pass it over.
is no such thing as a vested right in a forfeiture for the forfeiture of the entire invoices imported
until there is a judgment of a court adjudicating for a series of years, and commenced suit against Mr. TOOMBS. I want to show that the care
the forfeiture. That is a universal principle; and them for over three hundred thousand dollars. lessness was with the Government, and that there there are cuses running through your whole sys. They could not sue for both at once, and they fore the Government ought not to insist on these
tem of revenue laws showing it. The importance have preferred to sue for the forfeiture of the inextraordinary penalties. They have seized a cargo
of present action is to defeat these very people voices. of sugar, not for the duties owing to the Govern
who are attempting to obtain these forfeitures. Mr. POLK. I understand that the house of ment, but for forfeitures to the amount of hun
The custom-house officers, for a series of years, De Visser & Co. have actually parted with the dreds of thousands of dollars, when the duties
by the greatest negligence--which would ordina true amount of the duties, were bui a few thousand. They sue for forfeit- rily amount to a connivance at fraud-allowed Mr. TOOMES and Mr. BENJAMIN. Every ures for the benefit of clerks in the custom-house, this proceeding to be carried on; and now they dollar. when the whole trand was produced by their own
want the amount of the forfeiture, not the Gov Mr. POLK. And the fraudulent contrivance, carelessness; and this opposition, as ihe Senator
ernment debt. The Government became satisfied by which the United States got less than they very frankly concedes, comes from them. They that cruel injustice was done to these honest men, were entitled to, was one of which this Météjë, are the people who are seeking the forfeiture to
who had been imposed upon by their own clerk, the clerk, got the udvantage. increase their pay, when it was the neglect of and yet seek to obtain from them two or three hun Mr. SLIDELL. A partner. these very officers that allowed the frauds to be
dred thousand dollars of a forfeiture. I will read Mr. TOOMBS. I have stated the partnership: perpetrated.
-for it is important—the certificate of a committee He was made a partner first at one cighth, and Mr. FESSENDEN. Allow me to suggest that || appointed by the leading merchants of New Or then at fifteen per cent, as a mere compensation. I have only one possible doubt about the matter,
leans on this subject. The books of these gentle- | That was the evidence. and that doubt arises from my ignorance of the
men were examined by a committee; and I beg Mr. SLIDELL. I wish to ask whether it was law governing the case. This appears to have
the indulgence of the Senate while I read the re not in the power of these gentlemen to have debeen a very large seizure; and I suppose, if the sults of that examination:
posited in court the amount of duties short pailly property be condemned, the custom-house ofi
“At the request of Messrs. S. De Visser & Co., the under which they acknowledged to be due to the United cers will be entitled to a certain proportion. signed have examined the above extracts* from the books States; and whether they have done so or not? Mr. TOOMBS. One half.
of their firm, and on examining the statement and comparMr. FESSENDEN. If Congress remits the ing its several items with the check books of
and whether, by possibility, the consequences of & Co. on the Canal Bank and other banks, their cash book,
this act may not be to release De Visser and Vil. penalties, will they not have any possible claim
invoice book, journal and ledger, and whatever other books larubia altogether from any debt to the United at all?
and vouchers we deemed it proper to call for, the following States, when it appears that the United States Mr. TOOMBS. None whatever.
facts are apparent to the undersigned : Mr. FESSENDEN. I do not know the law “1. That for every amount in the above statement charged
have been defraudcu to the amount of twenty or as deposited against entries, they produce the correspond
thirty thousand dollars by their agent? on that point.
ing cheek duly paid and canceled by the bank on which it Mr. TOOMBS. The last question, I can answer Mr. HAMLIN. If they do not recover the was drawn. penalties they will not get any portion.
“2. That the amounts of such deposits as set forth above,
very fully, and it is the only one important to the Mr. FESSENDEN. Hlas ihere not been a correspond, in every instance, with the amount of invoices
case. This bill does not discharge them from any condemnation?
to which they relate, as their invoice book and the copies debt due the United States, and if the Senator of the original invoices received by them from Havana, as thinks it does, he can put it in such a share as will
nies, les Mr. BENJAMIN. Not at all. These parties far as they are in their possession, clearly show. do not go into the question whether they are le
“3. That the items of cscess of duties,' returned by the
prevent any such thing. There is not the least custom-house, in the above statement, correspond with cer difficulty on that point. The bill does nothing but gally responsible; but they say it is a very cruel
non-payment of the full amount of duly resulted
tain memoranda in their possession, preserved by them, and discharge them from suits for forfeitures, not only thing to have such a suit pending against them which are in the handwriting of Charles Météyé.
for the goods that were seized, but for sugars, on even if it is a legal liability.
"64. That the invoices in their invoice book, journal, and
which duties had been paid years before. Under Mr. FESSENDEN. What is the shape of this ledger, are charged with the same amounts as those named ascertained duties,' in the said statement.
the extraordinary circumstances of this case, the bill?
“5. That the profits on their invoices have been duly car frauds having been committed by the clerk of these Mr. BENJAMIN. To discharge them from ried to their profit and loss accouni.
parties, the Government has chosen to bring suit the pending suits. One suit has already been de * 6. That their books are kept in the most regular and cided in their favor, but there is an appeal. correct manner, and bear cvery indication of honesty and
against them for the forfeiture of all sugar they fair dealing.
had ever imported in regard to which there was Mr. FESSENDEN. IP a man recognized as “From this examination, the undersigned conclude, that fraud by the clerk. The effect of this bill is to retheir agent committed the fraud, it would not be they give full credit to the above statenjept, as surnishing a lease them from this forfeiture. The debt of the right that the Government should lose the amount
true and correct account of the course pursued by Messrs.
Government I have no doubt is open.
Mr.SLIDELL. Why is it not paid? Mr. BENJAMIN. Oh, no; that is not pro Météyé of the sums set forth in the foregoing statement as Mr. TOOMBS. I do not know. The case wag vided.
. excess of duties returned by the custom-house,' was well Mr. TOOMBS. The Government loses noth calculated to induce them to believe that Méteye, to whom
presented to me as a member of the Committee on the actualduries had been intrusted, had honestly used them
Commerce; that was the first time I ever knew of ing.
in the payment of the duties justly due. That the books it. I took the case as presented, and as it has Mr. MALLORY. The Senator from Maine show clearly that Messrs. De Visser and Villarubia could anticipated me.
been judicially determined. I know nothing about I desire to ask what the rights
not have intended to defraud the Government of its duties; it except as the facts disclosed in the testimony
and that the manner in wbich they have been kept, and their of the seizing officers are, in case of scizure? Ifa
entries made, entirely negative any such suspicion. show, not having the pleasure of knowing the forfeiture had taken place, they would undoubt “And, in conclusion, the undersigncd cheerfully bear tes. parties. edly have had a portion of the proceeds, and it || timony to the commercial and social standing of Niessrs. De would have been beyond the power of the Treas Vi ser and Villarubia, to their honor, integrity and probity;
Mr. POLK. The Scnator from Georgia says and cannot permit themselves, for an instant, to believe that
the bill is intended nyerely to release them from ury Department to release that portion coming to
they would lend themselves to the commission of the frauds the payment of forseitures. them. "Have they any such rights now, while with which their names have been so unfortunately, and, as Mr. TOO.MES. Yes, sir; it provides that the the prosecution of the suit is going on? we believe, so unjustly connected.”
suits shall be dismissed on payment of costs: Mr. TOOMBS. No; and that is the import That is signed by the leading importing houses Mr. POLK. I am inclined to think the bill ance of passing the bill now-that they shall not of New Orleans, including, I believe, every one may have a construction a little broader than that. have. They liave got none now.
of character in the city. According to the testi Mr. TOOMBS. The Senator can add an amendMr. SLIDELL. Under certain circumstances, mony of the commissioner and district attorney ment, providing for the paymentofduties, though for
certain violations of the revenue laws, the Sec- | of the United States, and all the merchants who I think that would be a hard requirement. The
Senator from Louisiana (Mr. SLIDELL) calls a it seems to me there is a vested right in these offi.
* These extracts were the statements copied from the partner. He was, it is true, nominally a partner, cers to the extent of their interest in the seizure, books of all the custom-house entries.
to take one cighth of the profits for doing his dury.
and the cu and tot
Sigers of Feelgene
35th Cong....1 st Sess.
De Visser and Villarubia-Mr. Slidell.
It was a clerk's duty. Afterwards, on account of Mr. Météyé, the person who was the active agent to put in that confidential position towards the his fidelity, as they believed, they raised his com- in committing these frauds, (and it is unnecessary | general public, and towards the Government? He pensation to fifteen per cent. on the profits. He for me to repeat again that I absolve his partners enjoyed this confidence at the custom-house, behad no capital, but instead of giving him a stand- | from any moral complicity, though they have legal cause he was the partner of De Visser, and went ing salary as clerk, they gave him a contingent liability,) has been a partner in this house five or there as such. These frauds probably could not interest in the profits of ihe concern. He had no six years. The manner in which the frauds were have been perpetrated by him unless he had been other duty to do but this particular one of pass- | perpetrated is not such as the Senator from Geor- the partner of a great commercial firm, for all we ing goods through the custom-house, and they gia represents. I do not think he understands knowtook him on the recommendation of the parties the particulars of the case. Sugars are sold in Mr. BENJAMIN. My colleague will rememwhom they bought out, who testified to his abil. | Havana at so many reals the arroba. The arroba ber that it is proven here that he had been the enity, fidelity, and good character. He discharged is about a fourth of a quintal of sugar-twenty; || tering clerk at the custom-house for a long series this duty for the firm whom they bought out for five or twenty-eight pounds. It is always sold of years for their predecessors.
many years, without the least suspicion attaching at so many reals the arroba. The weights and Mr. SLIDELL. I think it will also appear *;" 10 hím. No men have acted with more caution, prices of the sugar were correctly stated in the that he has been their partner for the last four
more prudence, more honor, or more integrity, invoices. Perhaps the invoices do not give the years. than these gentlemen. These are not ex parte exact amount, and in that opinion, I think, my Mr. BENJAMIN. I do not dispute that. I say statements, but they have undergone judicial in- || friend from Rhode Island, [Mr. Simmons,] who that did not give him credit at the custom-house. vestigation, and the words used by the commis- is so exceedingly anxious to have the mode of He was palmed on them, as well as on the cussioner of the United States, and the district attor- the valuation changed, would agree with me. tom-house. ney, fully justify what I have said.
These gentlemen have been large importers of Mr. SLIDELL. If the Senate so understands Mr. SÍMMONS. I hope the Senator from sugar from Havana for many years. As I said theGeorgia will agree to allow this bill to lie over until | before, we will suppose that the price given for Mr. PUGH. I want to ask the Senator from
to-morrow. If he will agree to have the Govern- sugar was an honest and fair price; but in the par- || Louisiana a question. I do not understand the tment secured in the payment of the amount actu- ticular instance on which the court passed there civil law, but I ask on what principle he calls this
ally due, I shall not object to the bill. I suppose was an importation of two hundred boxes of su- man a partner? He would not be so at common he will not pretend that these men are noi re- gar. A box of sugar contains about sixteen or law, but simply a clerk. sponsible for the act of their partner.
eighteen arrobas. Then the invoice would be in Mr. SLIDELL. I am as ignorant of the comMi. TOOMBS. Not at all.
these words: “two hundred boxes of sugar, con- mon law as the Senator professes to be of civil Mr. SIMMONS. I do not want to enforce ataining three thousand six hundred arrobas, at so law. I hope he knows a little more of the one forfeiture, because I think there is a fair showing | many reals per arroba.” If it had been carried out than I do of the other. But Mr. Météyé was a full, - shat this man was a rogue, and that they confided so many pounds of sugar at so many cents per complete partner, in every sense of the word; he
n'him; but I would not permit them to get rid of pound, the most negligent clerk, in running his had as full rights towards the public as every other he amount they actually owe the Government. eye over the calculations, would at once have seen member of the firm. His signature bound the
Mr. TOOMBS. I shall not object to such an that there was a mistake or a fraud in them. But firm. The gentleman shakes his head. He has imendment, though, according to my judgment, the Senate will very well understand that, unless just declared he knew nothing of the civil law;
would relieve ihem even from that. I think the a minute critical examination was made of every and when I give it to him as it is, he intimates his vill, in its present shape, does not touch that ques- multiplication and addition in this invoice, it dissent. ion. I do not think it right to require them to mighi very well escape the observation of a clerk. Mr. PUGH. I understood the gentleman to ay these duties over again, because the frauds These frauds began on the 2d of August, 1854. say there was no difference. rould not have happened if the Government offi- The first importation was three hundred and thir- Mr. SLIDELL. I say there is no difference, ers had not been to blame. If the clerks in the || ty-five boxes of sugar. The invoice amount was under our system of laws, on this subject. But ustom-house had made the calculations turning || $5,544, and the correct amount was $6,573; the the gentleman shakes his head, after appealing to se reals into our money, they might have known amount of excess $1,029 72, and the duty on ex- me for information. 'hat the duties were. "The Government officers cess $308 91. It is unnecessary for me to do more Mr. PUGH. The gentleman said there was no jok this clerk's statements, when the slightest | than state that a great many entries were made distinction. tention on their part would have enabled them of the same character, probably forty or fifty in Mr. SLIDELL. I say there is no distinction.
detect the fraud. But, for the grossest negli- | number, the aggregate between the invoices as In every sense of the word he was a full and comince of the worthless people who are generally carried out by the additions and multiplications plete partner under the civil law. ept about custom-houses, the thing could not being $289,000 when it should have been $371,000. Mr. PUGH. Ah! ave happened three times without detection. The amount which these invoices fraudulently Mr. SLIDELL. I profess to know nothing of ome of the invoices, it is true, were forgeries; represented less than the real amount was $81,725, | the common law. Now, I come to the charge of it most of the frauds were in the mere running the duty on which was $24,517. Now this sys. | gross carelessness on the part of the custom-house it of the calculations. If the Senate differ with tem of fraud was continued without intermission officers. If the Senate understand the explanation e, and say these parties shall be liable to duties, during the whole period of four years, until it was I have already given of the manner in which these all events, let the Senate put in an amendment discovered under the administration of the col- || frauds were made, accompanied by some other quiring the duties to be paid. lector who was recently appointed.
circumstances, I think that charge of gross careThe petition exhibits the facts as they were Mr. Météyé, whom it is now sought to reduce lessness cannot be brought home to the officers of ied before the court. Here is the ample testi- to the humble capacity of clerk, merely to do cus- customs. That seems to be a point very much ony of the judge who tried it, of the late district || com-house business, was a full pariner of the insisted upon. The inadequacy of the force at the torney, and the present district attorney, and house of De Visser & Co., authorized to use their || New Orleans custom-house has been very often all the importing merchants of the city of New signature in every transaction, held out by them! represented. I was perfectly satisfied of the fact leans, as to the integrity of the transaction on to the public as their partner, and entitled to the myself, and have called the attention of the Gove part of these gentlemen. The proof is that same degree of confidence in the community as ernment to it on repeated occasions. I have never e Government officers knew all about the frauds any one of the members of the firm. That, I been able to obtain for the officers of the customs 'o days before they communicated with the part- | presume, will not be disputed. He was, in every there the same degree of aid in the discharge of rs, and gave this man an opportunity to flee the sense, a full, equal partner in the concern, except their duties that has been extended to other cusuntry, and after having done that, they bring as regarded the participation in the profits. He tom-houses. We live in a remote and not a very suit against these gentlemen for forfeitures. had fifteen per cent. profits of the concern. In important section of the country, and we do not ink the course of the Government officers against the course of four years he managed to embezzle receive quite as much attention here as others do. em has been extremely hard.
twenty-four or twenty-five thousand dollars. I At any rate it is a fact that I assert, from my own Mr. SIMMONS. I never like to mulct any: do not know what his habits were. Men very knowledge, that the clerical aid of the customdy in damages for the fault of a partner, but I seldom steal money from their employers or the house has been, and now is, totally inadequate to ink it would be better to let this bill lie over for Government unless they have extravagant habits, | the proper discharge of the duties of the officer of e present.
and I think it is fair to presume that such was Mr. || the cusioms in the protection of the revenue. Mr. TOOMBS. There is importance in carry- | Météyé's character; and if it were so, his part- The character of the business at New Orleans git now.
ners ought to have been cognizant of it, if they is very different from that at New York, and other Mr. SIMMONS. Not this day.
discretion. It is very easy. It large importing towns in the country. We have Mr. SLIDELL. The Senator from Georgia | may not be so in New York, but in a town like a very large number of small merchants who imsentered somewhat into the merits of the claim New Orleans, containing a population of one hun- port assortments of every variety of merchandise, on the question of the postponement, which dred and fifty or one hundred and sixty thousand, || and our invoices frequently occupy folios, col. ould have been answered by itself. I shall not a man who is enjoying a revenue of three or four umns of entire sheets of paper, half a dozen of ply to the attacks, I think rather harsh, and in thousand dollars a year, cannot very well spend them combining every possible variety of articles me instances gratuitous, he has made upon the three times that amount without attracting, public and every variety of price. The importations at cers of the customs at New Orleans. I should attention towards his habits of extravagance, and the North are almost exclusively made by large prepared to take the vote now, without further his partners ought to be the first men to know it; / merchants, who import in packages of great value, ay; but that the Senate may understand this but, unfortunately, too often they are the very and then sell out to the retailers. Such is not the estion, I will state that these frauds run back last.
character of the principal importing trade of New r or five years. I will state the character and Now, the question is, whether it is consistent | Orleans. ent of them, and I will then endeavor to relieve with public interest, with public policy, and, I Now, I say it was physically impossible, with
officers of the customs from this charge of may say, with good morals, to let innocent part- the number of clerks employed in that branch of ss negligence and incapacity which has been ners of a commercial firm escape, scot free, from the service at New Orleans, to have collated all freely indulged in.
the delinquency of men whom they have chosen ll the invoices that were sent to them, and gone
through all the additions. They were obliged, to ined one of them until they discovered the fraud, derstand it, the evils apprehended by these parties a certain extent, lo trust to the good faith of the and they swore it was their duty to do it. I spoke may have happened before then, and other righis parties with whom they were acting. It would by the card; for I have the oath of the custom may have intervened, so that we may not be able iake a clerk a whole day to go over a French in-house ottictrs on that point.
to prevent their losing half the forfeitures, unless, voice, for instance, of a milliner from Havre, six Mr. SLIDELL. I have no doubt they did ex we pass the bill ai the present session. At the or seven hundred articles of goods, all in small amine, but did not give that particular examina same time, I do not feel exactly clear as to the quantities and at different prices.
It would, per
ditsiculty of casting an invoice of sugar coming haps, require more expenditure, in the way of Mr. TOOMBS. I wish to disabuse myself of from Havana. These are in arrobas and reals. clerks, than the thing would be worth, if it were having given an incorrect statement about these Twenty-five pounds is an arroba, and a real is practicable; but at any rate, whether that be so gentlemen. I have spoken on the sworn oathis twelve and a half cents-just half as many cents or not, they had not the means of doing it. It is of the men whom I charge with negligence. I as there are reals for these arrobas, It is the proved, by the documents on file in the Depart think it is giving fair chance to let them give their easiest computation in the world. ment here, that it was utterly impossible for the own story.
Mr. BENJAMIN. I do not know that the clerks of the custom-house to have gone through
Mr.SLIDELL. Who are the men you charge? Senate understood my colleague fully. I think a minute examination of all the additions in every Mr. TOOMBS. The custom-house oficers the negligence of the custom-house officers is fully invoice that was presented. Since then, since whose duty it was to examine the papers as pre shown by my colleague's statement, Sugar is this fraud has been discovered—they have relaxed sented. I charge it on what I have before me, sold in Havana at so many reals the arroba. in some degree from the severity of their rule, and the testimony of two or three of them. Joseph Twelve and a half cents is a real, and twenty-fre I think they have given one or two additional: Genois, sr., was one.
pounds is an arroba, so that a real an arroba means clerks to this branch of the service, and it is prob Vir. SLIDELL. IIe is the naval officer. Of half a cent a pound, and when it is entered at six ably better conducted now than it was then. course, he never looked at the examination. reals an arroba that is three cenis a pound. For
Now, as regards the personnel of the custom Mr. TOOMBS. One of them swears it was his four years of forty-odd invoices, the custom-house house, the gentleman under whose administration business. Mr. John McLoughlin was another, ofñcers testified they had never carried out a sinthis traud was detected, and who is now accusid and Mr. Capdeville swears it was his business. gle extension. It was in the carrying out of with all the others, en masse, of gross dereliction Mr. J. R. Conner was sworn also, and Mr. Relf. wrong extensions that the entire fraud was comof duty, of utter incompetency, of bad adminis-'The man who discovered it, I think, was Mr. mitted, and in no other way. tration, had not been in office more than four or Conner. I have read through the case.
Mr. SIMMONS. If it be critically examined five weeks when the frauds were detected, and Nir.SLIDELL. What about Genois?
it will probably turn out to be one of those cases they have been running through a series of years: 1 Mr. TOOMBS. Ile states that it was the first which have been brought to my attention a great The Government is indebied to the vigilance of one he examined; and it was his duty to examine many times-every one of these invoices was the officers of the customs for the detection of this, them all, und he discovered the fraud.
under-valued. fraud; and I think if any benefit is in he derived Mr. SLIDELL. If Mr. Capdeville was one Mr. BENJAMIN. All were full value. from the forfeiture, they are fairly entitled to their of those whose dury it was to examine the cal Mr. SIMMONS. It may be that they were. share, because, if the discovery had not been made culations, he was in the appraiser's office, then it I have looked at some of these invoices, and I by them, the example would probably have been went through three calculations. As regards the think they give a pretty low price for sugar at imitated by others, and the revenue would have naval officer, I have already said that from my that time; but I am not going into that, because been subjected to immense loss. So far as regards own personal knowledge he had not sufficient cler the court have gone into it, and I am satistied. I the collector of the port of New Orleans, I pre ical force working night and day to have been want to suggest to the Senator that this should lie sume, then, that he is scarcely amenable to the capable of all these examinations; and I think the over until an appropriate amendment can be made, charge of incompetency, unfaithfulness, and care Senate will understand that a mere ordinary cur- ) requiring the amount of duties still deficient on lessness in the discharge of his duly.
sory examination of these invoices, such as I have these invoices to be paid. The Government is enI do not know enough of the mechanism of the no doubt takes place in every other custom-house titled to them; and nobody will pretend that the custom-house to give any precise details on the of the country, would not have enabled the clerks men who have kept this partner for four years are subject, but I believe the form is this: goods first go to discover it. It was very ingenious.
not responsible for his acis. I have had some to the appraiser's office; they are there examined; w, to come back to the point-perhaps this inkling of what partners of that kind are: and in one or two packages out of a certain number are discussion is not exactly in order on the question fact it is stated that this partner was taken in be opened to find if they correspond in their con to postpone-I say that these officers of customs cause he had a peculiar adaptation to enter goods tents with the invoice. Then the next examina have a right, in my opinion, and the Government - understand what that means--he had a great tion is directed to whether the prices are fairly has a right to the action of the circuit court, on facility for getting goods through the custom. charged. That is the duty of the appraisers. I the writ of error that has been taken in this matter. house. I will not say that his partners had any presume the appraisers have nothing to do with Thnt court sils either on the latter part of May, bad design, but I am going to treat them as if they the addition. They simply say, we have exam or the first part of June. The question then will were ihe most honesi men that lived in the world. ined the goods and are satisfied the invoice gives be fully discussed. If there be circumstances of | I do not want them to lose anything, but I do not a correci account of what is contained in the dif-equity to recommend it to the consideration of the think the Government ought io lose atiything by ferent packages; and as far as we are able to judge | court, the judgment of the court will be in accord the misconduct of one of their partners. I do not the price appears to be in accordance with that ance with them. If it be not, the claims of the think they ought to lose by forfeiture, because usually charged for similar articles in the port Treasury will be vindicated; and I think the just | they happened to be unfortunate in getting a partfrom whence they were shipped. They make rights of these officers, by whose vigilance this ner; bui as to their invoices and prices, I suspect their return that the invoice is correct. It goes seizure was effected, and this system of fraud there is a pretty general rule that sugar shipped at to the collector's office. There the invoice is which has been carried on with impunity for so Havana is undervalued in the invoices. Thase looked over and the calculations are made of the many years, arrested. It appears to me that it is heard it, at any rate.
But be that as it may, if amount of duties to be levied. From that office a very reasonable request. As regards the grounds the Senator from Georgia will make a provision they are sent to the naval ofhcer who verifies the on which the district attorney intends to prose saving to the Government the real amount of corrcctness of the calculations made in the cus cute his writ of error to the circuit court, they duties, according to their own statement, that is tom-louse proper. When the whole examination relate to the instructions of the judge,
which pro- actually due, I will consent to pass the bill and has been made, the amountofduties is pronounced bably acted conclusively with the jury; and to my relieve them. to be liquidated at a certain sum, and the importer mind are evidently palpably wrong. The judge Mr. IVERSON. Will the Senator from Rhode rays them. He generally deposits in advance an instructed the jury ihat, “as the i:ems of the in Island allow me to read an amendment I have amount sufficient to cover the duties.
voice exhibited the actualcost of the sugar, though drawn up to this bill, which, if the motion to postI repeat that Mr. Hatch, the collector of the cus. the extensions were fraudulent, they could not be
pone does not prevail, I shall offer? toms-and as I said before, he liad been in office considered as a part of the invoice, and therefore
Provided, That nothing in this act shall be so construed but three weeks when the discovery was made the case did not come within the provision of the
as to relieve said parties from any amount of dutjes which is not responsible for past neglect. I here take act under which they were seized.
may jus!!y be due to the Uuited States on account or said occasion io say that we had at New Orleans pre The Senate will understand what the exten importations, and that this act shall not take effect until vious to the appoinıment of Mr. Harch, the most sions were. The weight was right; the price was
said duties are paid. incompetent collector that has ever filled any po- il right; but the difficulty was in ihe calculation of Mr. SIMMONS. I think that will answer. sition of equalimportance under the Government. the amount of that price in a complicated cur Mr. COLLA VER. I would suggest to the I used every proper effort under the past Admin- i rency—a currency noi familiar to our people, and gentleman a substitute for that amendment. My istration to have him removed. Everybody ad in a system of weights unknown to us. The eye, idea is that whether this man was an agent or a mitted his incompetency, but there were certain in passing over this calculation, would not deieci
partner makes really no diference. Partners are reasons why he was kept in ofñice, to which it is
it at once. The judge decided that as long as the not answerable for the acts of a copartner criminot necessary for me to advert. When the new price stated in the invoice was correct, no matter naliter, but only civililer; and therefore for forfeitAdministration came into power, they changed how frandulent the calculations in an invoice
ures these gewilemen are not responsible. The the collector, and one of the first fruits of that might be, it did not operate a forfeiture under the honorable gentlemarron the other side [Mr. Scichange was the discovery of these frauds that had act of 1799. It appears to me that that cannot be DELL) seems to doubt whether there be not some been going on for three or four years, I think the good law. If it be, certainly our statutes require law beyond that; but I do not think there is. ! Senator from Georgia will now acquit the collec- amendment in a very important particular. . tor of blame. have no disposition to detain the Senate from a is not so in common law, nor common sense. But
do not know that is not so in the civil law; but it Mr. TOOMBS. I spoke of the custom-house vote further. I think there are good reasons for stili, afierall, he was their agent, or he was their officers, whose duty it was to make these exain postponing the consideration of this case. inations, and I spoke by the sworn testimony in Mr. SIMMONS. I should be opposed to post- duties; and in all that, whether you treat himna
partner, to make these entries and to pay these court, from which it appears they never exam-11 poning the bill until the next session; for if I un
an agent or partner, it is not material, because the
35th Cong....1st Sess.
De Visser and Villarubia-Mr. Iverson.
law is the same. He was their agent or partner | again. At any rate, to mulet them in the sum of partners, or to the principals, in whichever charto pay these duries to the Government, and make two or three hundred thousand dollars, merely to acter you regard thern; instead of reporting it to the right entries and pay right sumy, whether he give a portion of the money to the informer, is a them, and enabling them thereby to arrest this got the money out of his parmers or did not. Then principle that I will never recognize in legislation. clerk, and to secure the funds which he might all that he did not properly enter and pay, they If this collector, for having discovered the fraud have in hand belonging to them, and which he should pay. That clearly is the law, though it in so short a space of time, is to receive such a was embezzling, they remained two days conmay have been their misfortune. They may have recompense, what ought to be the penalty inflicted scious of these frauds without imparting a knowlsetúed with their consignors. It is likely they on the delinquent collector? Sir, there is none eilge of them, and suffered him to run away bave, and closed up so that they cannot get pay that could reach him. I am prepared to vote to Thereby they made themselves accessories asier from the consignors. That is their misfortune
exonerate these partners from all accountability the faci to the fraud which he perpetrated upon from having a dishonest partner, or dishonest to the Government, but, in good faith, to hold the his principals, or partners; and it is in that view agent, and the Government should not suffer. My officers of the Government, to whom it has con of the case that I agree with the Senator from only objection to the suggestion made by the hon- fided important trusts, responsible. When they Georgia, that it is really taking advantage of the orable Senator from Georgia (Mr. Iverson) is, have failed in the duty confided to them, and the wrong of the officers of the Government to make that I have some doubt in my mind whether, when revenues are betrayed or defrauded, let not the the parties pay these duties over again. the Goveramelit, bas insisted upon a forfeiture, it injury fall on innocent individuals when it is Mr. SIMMONS. I should like to have an excan now consistently claim the amount of the caused by the acts of the Government, who were planation on that point. When the fraud was disduty. The very ground of these suits is that of responsible for the protection of citizens through covered, did the custom-house officers wait any forfeiture, and I therefore prefer that a proviso the public functionaries of the Government. longer than was necessary to seize this man, beshould be added expressly requiring them to pay The PRESIDING OFFICER, (Mr. Foot.) || fore notifying the partners? the amount of the duties, and not provide for waiv The question is on the motion to postpone the Mr. TOOMBS.' It was discovered on Saturing them.
further consideration of the bill until the first day, and here is the sworn testimony that they Mr, TOOMBS. That is the amendment. Monday in December next.
did not communicate it at all to these parties unMr. COLLAMER. No; the amendment is, The notion was not agreed to.
til Monday afternoon, and then the man had run that nothing in the bill shall be construed to waive Mir. IVERSON. I now offor my amendment. away. They then went and arrested these genthe duties.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair will tlemen criminally for this very forfeiture. Mr. TOOMBS. The Senator did not read the suggest that in the present state of the bill amend Mr. SLIDELL. I have not a copy of the pelatter portion of the amendment.
ments are not in order, and cannot be made except tition, but, as far as my recollection serves me, Mr. CLARK. There is a last clause covering by unanimous consent.
the Senator from Georgia is right about the day. that,
Mr. TOOMBS. I wish to make one statement Saturday was spent in consultation, or an at'empt Mr. IVERSON. The amendment is:
to my colleague. It is perfectly clear that these at consultation, with the district attorney. They Prorided, That nothing in this act shall be so construed men have paid this money. It is equally clear, did not know how to proceed. They could not as to relieve said parties from any amount of duties whichi from sworn testimony in the courts of justice, that find the district attorney, and on Monday they may jusily be due to the United States on account of said
these frauds were permitted to go on by the gross got out an order for arresting the partners, not importations, and that this act shall not take effect until said duties are paid.
cst negligence of the custom-house officers, who knowing how far the other parties were impliMr. COLLAMER. I have no objection to
had never examined a single invoice. I say, of cated in this affair. They did not inform them, that, but I think it would be preferable to put it
course, in strict law they are bound, as their agent because they considered them equally guilty. in this form:
did not pay the money, to pay it over again them- ! Mr. TOOMBS. The Senator is mistaken. It That said parties pay to the United States Treasury the
selves; but the Government ought not to avail itself is in proof that this man Météyé was in the cusfall amount of duties actually payable on goods, warts, and
of the negligence of its own officers, clearly and tom-liousc on Monday morning. merchandise bereidore imported by thein iuto the port of distinctly established, and runving over a period Mr. SLIDELL. I say the difficulty was not
of three or four years, to exact the money. Ad with the officers, but with the district attorney, Mr. HOUSTON. I do not know that I com mitting the strict legality, is it just and fair, when for whom they could not get the necessary informprehend this subject very perfectly; but from all the Government, by its paiil oicers, enabled this ation to proceed. A collector has no right to take I have heard of it, I have come to the conclusion man to perpetrate these frauds for four years, to a man by the collar and arrest him. that these petitioners are very honest, gentlemanly ask innocent parties to pay the money? The of Mr. TOOMBS. They allowed the guilty man men, and that the delinquency of their clerk, or ficers of the Government might easily have de to escape, partner, if you please to call him so—and, tech tected the frauds, but it is sworn to that they never Mr. IVERSON. I am satisfied there was laches nically, I do not care what he was-should not did run out the figures. I admit the legal princi. on the part of the custom-house officers, in allowbe visited upon them. They in good faith ad ple, and I am willing to consent that the amending this fraud to be so long in existence, without Fanced the money to him to pay the duties upon ment may be received, and that the Senate may detection; but doubiless that was attributable, to all the goods received, and he misapplied it. For pass upon it; but I make this appeal to Senators: 1 a great extent, to the confidence which they placed allowing this to pass the first, the second, or the do not think the Government ought to exact these in this agent of these parties. These invoices third time, the officers of the Government may $24,000 from these men, when, as has been said by were made for them, and the officers took it for have been excusable; but after thai, I think it ihe Senator from Texas, it was in consequence of granted that what he did was properly done, and would be an act of injustice on the part of the the naked, clear negligence of the Government of- they were probably deceived and misled by the Government to exact ihe duties from these gen ficers that these transactions happened. I make || confidence they placed in this very man. And tlemen, when it was the duty of the Government no objection to receiving the amendment, and I who gave him the confidence which enabled him oficers to examine into the accounts, and to de ask for a vote upon it.
to impose on the custom-house officers? These tect any errors; and we have the evidence of the Mr. CLAY. In support of what is said by the parties themselves, who employed him. It is said honorable Senator from Louisiana (Mr. SLIDELL] Senator from Georgia, as Senators may not un he was nothing more than a clerk. That makes that the individual who was in charge of the cus derstand the question thoroughly, I will make a the case still stronger. If he was a partner on tom-house was one of the most worthless men single remark, in order to explain fully what he an equal footing with them, perhaps it would not that could have been placed there; and we have a
means. I will say, before doing so, ihat when have been so strong a case; but here they emright to infer that it was owing to delinquency or this question was referred to the Committee on ployed the agent themselves, and the employment neglect on his part that this evil was continued.
Cominerce-of which I have the honor to be chair was an indorsement of his integrity. Thai is the Dir. SLIDELL Allow me to say to the Sen man-I examined it first myself; and I became principle everywhere, both in law and common ator, that if I made use of that word, I certainly fully satisfied that these men ought not to be made sense: if you employ an agent to transact any do not wish it to remain in the sense in which the to suffer this forfeiture. But, not being willing to fiduciary business for you, you indorse his inSenator applies it. I way he was incompetent. I trust my own judgment on it, I did not report it tegrity and honesty. These men employed him said nothing against his personal integrity.
to the committee, but referred it to the Senator for two or three years, and he was dishonest Mr. HOUSTON. Very well; that devolves the from Georgia, knowing that he was a lawyer of the whole time. To be sure, they may not have responsibility on the Government, for they are more experience and ability; and he came io the known anything about it, and I dare say they did bound to select capable men to discharge the same conclusion, without any conversation be- not; but still, law as well as equity makes ihem public trusts. For that reason, I cannot think of tween us on the subject previously.
responsible for the integrity of his conduct; bevoting to tax these men when the Government had Now, he says this money has been paid. Sen cause whose fault was it that he was enabled to a fur opportunity to detect these frauds that were ators may noi understand how that is. The firm impose on somebody else? It was the fault of practiced upon ihe custom-house, and it was the advanced the money to this clerk to pay the du those who employed him, and they are responsidury of the Government officers to do so. When ties. Their books show it. The merchants who ble for what he has done. the successor of the delinquent collector came into investigated the question say that their books This man doubtless misled the custom-house office, he detected those fiauds. His predecessor show that they did advance the money. There officers to acquiesce in the proceedings which rehad four years in which to do it, and if he had fore, they have advanced to the Government, as sulted in this fraud, and the Government certainly discharged his duty, he would have done it in the far as they could through their agent, this amount has not received the duties. That much which course of three weeks, as this officer was enabled of money to pay the duties. The clerk did not
was due to the Governinent lias not been paid; to do. I do not say that there was any complicity pay them. He went there, and succeeded in and these parties now come here and demand that between the custom house officers and chis delinchíseling the Government, as the Senator says, we shall release them from obligations or penalquent clerk or partner; but there is no doubt that through the criminal complicity or culpable nego ties which they have incurred in consequence of the fault was that of the Government, and not of ligence of the officers of ihe Government. But their own misplaced confidence in their agent. these partners who come forward as petitioners, this complicity or negligence did not result merely They have no legal claim to this release. That is and ask relief. If they have already paid the in wronging ihe Government; they went further, admitted. They come and appeal to our equitaduties in good faith, as is testified, it would be a and did a gross wrong to this firm. They discov- ble and generous feelings to release them from a very severe penalty to make them pay them over li ered the fraud; but, instead of reporting it to the il penalty which has been imposed on them by law.