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Man Faces $560K Fine for Abusing 'Alaska Loophole'

Canadians say he wasn't supposed to be sightseeing
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2020 4:14 PM CDT
Updated Aug 29, 2020 7:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – A brief sightseeing trip in Canada could end up costing a Kentucky man more than $500,000. The US-Canada border has been closed to most travelers since March, but Americans are still allowed to travel between Alaska and the lower 48 states if they take the most direct route possible through Canada and obey coronavirus regulations. John Pennington, however, allegedly violated the regulations twice in two days in June, NPR reports. The Mounties say the 40-year-old was fined $910 after employees at a hotel in Banff, Alberta informed them that he had entered Canada from Alaska several days earlier and was likely using the "Alaska loophole" to breach regulations. He was told to stay in his hotel and leave in the morning. But the next day, police spotted Pennington's vehicle at a local tourist attraction.

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Police say Pennington claimed he had taken the gondola to the Sulphur Mountain site looking for food—but food was available at his hotel and he had "no legitimate reason" to be there. He was arrested and charged with violating the Quarantine Act. Pennington was later released and given a court date in October. He could face a maximum fine of $750,000 Canadian, around $560,000 US, or up to six months in prison. RCMP Staff Sgt. Michael Buxton-Carr tells the CBC that such cases are rare and charges are even rarer. "The vast majority of Americans and vehicles with American licence plates are people who are here for legitimate reasons," he says. "This is the only arrest we have made under the Quarantine Act and the Banff RCMP detachment has only issued one ticket so far." (Other Americans, however, have faced a frosty reception north of the border.)

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