Forbidden fruit: Woman fined $500 for carrying complementary snack off a Delta flight
An Arvada woman said she's facing a $500 fine from US Customs and Border Patrol after she saved a free apple she received from an airline on her way home from Paris.
A woman was fined $500 for passing through U.S. Customs and Border Patrol with an apple she received while flying on a Delta Airlines flight, according to reports.
During a conversation with KDVR, a local FOX affiliate in Colorado, Crystal Tadlock explained that she was traveling from Paris back to the United States when a flight attendant passed out apples. However, she wasn't hungry and so she kept the snack in her bag to have it later.
Tadlock said that she was randomly stopped by an agent while going through Customs. The agent found a plastic bag with Delta's logo on it and the fruit inside.
"He had asked me if my trip to France was expensive and I said, 'Yeah.' I didn’t really get why he was asking that question, and then he said 'It’s about to get a lot more expensive after I charge you $500,'" Tadlock told KDVR.
However, the report didn't specify where the search occurred or what the date was when this happened.
When she asked the agent if she could throw the apple or eat it, he handed her a $500 fine. Tadlock complained that the Delta attendants did not warn passengers that they couldn't take the food off the plane. She also thinks Customs could have handled the situation differently after seeing the fruit was in an airline-marked bag.
"It’s really unfortunate someone has to go through that and be treated like a criminal over a piece of fruit," she told KDVR.
The aggrieved passenger said that her innocent mistake could cost her more than just the $500 penalty - she could lose her "Global Entry Status", a provision which allows low-risk and pre-approved travelers to have expedited clearance on entry to the United States.
USA Today requested Delta for comment on the incident. In response, a spokesperson for the airline gave a broader response, saying that it encourages its customers "to adhere to Customs and Border Protection policies and requirements."
In a statement, the US Customs asserted that the agency would not discuss details of specific inspections, however, they advised that "all agriculture items must be declared" and that penalties for not adhering to the said rules can be as high as $1,000.
"Prohibited items that are not declared by a passenger are confiscated and disposed of by CBP. More importantly, civil penalties may be assessed for failure to declare prohibited agricultural products and may range up to 1,000 dollars per first-time offense for non-commercial quantities. If the items are determined to be for commercial use, violations will be assessed at a much higher rate," the statement read.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, “every fruit or vegetable must be declared to a CBP Agriculture Specialist or CBP Officer and must be presented for inspection.”
The website further justifies the agency's strict policy by saying that it is designed to prevent against plant pests and foreign animal diseases from making its way into the United States.
Tadlock has said that she wants to bring the matter before a judge, having a restricted choice between paying the penalty and fighting the case in court.