Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch and a general partner at CrunchFund revealed a few days ago on his blog that after he sold TechCrunch in 2010, he didn’t splurge on anything except for a new boat that was built and shipped from Canada.
The problem? The boat was built in Canada and an agent of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confiscated the boat due to the government form containing an error but ignored by the customs agent.
Arrington explained that he lives near Seattle where there’s a big boating culture up there. He ordered a boat, built by a small company that builds boats specifically for that area called Coastal Craft. He ordered it in 2011 had planned on writing about the experience after the boat was delivered.
He named the boat, Buddy and said, “It has state of the art electronics and a fairly new highly efficient propulsion system the TechCrunch audience would be interested in. Today was the day that Buddy was going to be delivered.”
“That didn’t happen, because the Department of Homeland Security seized the boat.”
Arrington explained, “DHS takes documents supplied by the builder and creates a government form that includes basic information about the boat, including the price. The primary form, prepared by the government, had an error. The price was copied from the invoice, but DHS changed the currency from Canadian to U.S. Dollars.”
“It has language at the bottom with serious sounding statements that the information is true and correct, and a signature block. I pointed out the error and suggested that we simply change the currency from US $ to CAD $ so that it was correct. Or instead, amend the amount so that it was correct in U.S. dollars. I thought this was important because I was signing it and swearing that the information, and specifically the price, was correct.”
Since the document had an error and would falsify his information, Arrington refused to sign it.
“The DHS agent didn’t care about the error and told me to sign the form anyway. “It’s just paperwork, it doesn’t matter,” she said. I declined,” Arrington said.
“She called another agent and said simply “He won’t sign the form.” I asked to speak to that agent to give them a more complete picture of the situation. She wouldn’t allow that. Then she seized the boat. As in, demanded that we get off the boat, demanded the keys and took physical control of it.”
The day after the boat was seized, Arrington got it back but not without a surprise that awaited him on his blog.
Arrington posted his misadventure on his blog and not long after he posted his story, someone from the Department of Homeland Security were not too pleased with him and replied.
Not only did the anonymous DHS worker call Arrington, “Mr rich guy”, but also accused Arrington of writing false allegations on his blog.
The anonymous DHS worker said:
“Okay all, the rest of the story(I was there). 1. The amount on both invoice and CBP form were in U.S dollars correctly completed on the form. 2. Just because someone has $$$ and posts something first on the web, doesn’t make them true. 3. The officer in question did not act gleefully, in fact SHE called back to the office and vessel manufacturer several times to verify the stated value. 4. The officer in question vilified by this rich individual now has to endure all the grief posted here and elsewhere by Mr rich guy and explain why she followed the LEGAL document value and wouldn’t cow to his brow beating. 5. Coastal Craft ended up paying for a broker to perform what should have been a personal importation and guess what The value on that entry was EXACTLY the same as on the CBP presented form. 6. Mr. Rich guy will probably post everywhere now that HE was right due to the fact that he has his boat and did not sign anything, but the fact is that the company took the high moral ground and due to ALL the false posting by Arrington, they paid for the paperwork to be processed. 7. We are all at the mercy of individuals who feel (right or wrong) that they can put out whatever they feel and get hundreds of all of you all worked up about the big bad government, fact is the is/was correct and all of us had to jump thru hoops due to Arrington’s posts and written falsehoods. 8. I am proud to work with this office/officer and all of you should be ashamed for vilifying her/DHS without knowing the facts. 9. Most working folds have bosses and we are no exception sadly we had to answer many questions for correctly performing our sworn duties due to all the bad press put out by someone who feels entitled or above the public servant. Shame on you.”
Arrington replied to the allegations by the DHS worker with a number of questions but also said, “I’m terribly sorry that I upset you and your office over all this. But all I did was post what happened on my personal blog. I have the right to do that under the Constitution. That thing you’ve sworn to uphold and protect.”
“For you, the government, to outright lie like this, and engage in a personal attack, and discuss private information, is disgusting.”
The Department of Homeland Security worker has not yet replied to Arrington.