MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a writ of error under the Criminal Appeals Act (c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246) to review the ruling of the District Court sustaining a demurrer of one of the defendants to an indictment for a conspiracy to defraud a corporation in which the United States was and is a stockholder, under § 35 of the Criminal Code, as amended October 23, 1918, c. 194, 40 Stat. 1015.
During the period covered by the indictment, i.e., between October, 1919, and January, 1920, the steamship Dio belonged to the United States. The United States owned all the stock in the United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation. The National Shipping Corporation agreed to operate and manage the Dio for the Fleet Corporation, which under the contract was to pay for fuel, oil, labor and material used in the operation. The Dio was on a voyage to Rio de Janeiro under this management. Wry was her master, Bowman was her engineer, Hawkinson was the agent of the Standard Oil Company at Rio de Janeiro, and Millar was a merchant and ship repairer and engineer in Rio. Of these four, who were the defendants in the indictment, the first three were American citizens, and Millar was a British subject. Johnston & Company were the agents of the National Shipping Corporation at Rio. The indictment charged that the plot was hatched by Wry and Bowman on board the Dio before she reached Rio. Their plan was to order, through Johnston & Company, and receipt for, 1000 tons of fuel oil from the Standard Oil Company, but to take only 600 tons aboard, and to collect cash for a delivery of 1000 tons through Johnston & Company, from the Fleet Corporation, and then divide the money paid for the undelivered 400 tons among the four defendants. This
The first count charged a conspiracy by the defendants to defraud the Fleet Corporation in which the United States was a stockholder, by obtaining and aiding to obtain the payment and allowance of a false and fraudulent claim against the Fleet Corporation. It laid the offense on the high seas, out of the jurisdiction of any particular State and out of the jurisdiction of any district of the United States, but within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States. The second count laid the conspiracy on the Dio on the high seas and at the port of Rio de Janeiro as well as in the city. The third count laid it in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The fourth count was for making and causing to be made in the name of the Standard Oil Company, for payment and approval, a false and fraudulent claim against the Fleet Corporation in the form of an invoice for 1000 tons of fuel oil, of which 400 tons were not delivered. This count laid the same crime on board the Dio in the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. The fifth count laid it in the city and the sixth at the port and in the city.
No objection was made to the indictment or any count of it for lack of precision or fullness in describing all the elements of the crimes denounced in § 35 of the Criminal Code as amended. The sole objection was that the crime was committed without the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State thereof and on the high seas or
The court in its opinion conceded that under many authorities the United States as a sovereign may regulate the ships under its flag and the conduct of its citizens while on those ships, and cited to this point Crapo v. Kelly, 16 Wall. 610, 623-632; United States v. Rodgers, 150 U.S. 249, 260-1, 264-5; The Hamilton, 207 U.S. 398, 403, 405; American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347; Wilson v. McNamee, 102 U.S. 572, 574; United States v. Smiley, 6 Sawy. 640, 645. The court said, however, that while private and public ships of the United States on the high seas were constructively a part of the territory of the United States, indeed peculiarly so as distinguished from that of the States, Congress had always expressly indicated it when it intended that its laws should be operative on the high seas. The court concluded that because jurisdiction of criminal offenses must be conferred upon United States courts and could not be inferred, and because § 35, like all the other sections of c. 4, contains no reference to the high seas as a part of the locus of the offenses defined by it, as the sections in cc. 11 and 12 of the Criminal Code do, § 35 must be construed not to extend to acts committed on the high seas. It confirmed its conclusion by the statement that § 35 had never been invoked to punish offenses denounced if committed on the high seas or in a foreign country.
We have in this case a question of statutory construction. The necessary locus, when not specially defined, depends upon the purpose of Congress as evinced by the description and nature of the crime and upon the territorial limitations upon the power and jurisdiction of a
But the same rule of interpretation should not be applied to criminal statutes which are, as a class, not logically dependent on their locality for the Government's jurisdiction, but are enacted because of the right of the Government to defend itself against obstruction, or fraud wherever perpetrated, especially if committed by its own citizens, officers or agents. Some such offenses can only be committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the Government because of the local acts required to constitute them. Others are such that to limit their locus to the strictly territorial jurisdiction would be greatly to curtail the scope and usefulness of the statute and leave open a large immunity for frauds as easily committed by citizens on the high seas and in foreign countries as at home. In such cases, Congress has not thought it necessary to make specific provision in the law that the locus shall include the high seas and foreign countries, but allows it to be inferred from the nature of the offense. Many of these occur in c. 4, which bears the title "Offenses
What is true of these sections in this regard is true of § 35, under which this indictment was drawn. We give it in full in the margin.
Nor can the much quoted rule that criminal statutes are to be strictly construed avail. As said in United States v. Lacher, 134 U.S. 624, 629, quoting with approval from Sedgwick, Statutory and Constitutional Law, 2d ed., 282: "penal provisions, like all others, are to be fairly construed according to the legislative intent as expressed in the enactment." They are not to be strained either way. It needs no forced construction to interpret § 35 as we have done.
Section 41 of the Judicial Code provides that "the trial of all offenses committed upon the high seas, or elsewhere out of the jurisdiction of any particular State or district, shall be in the district where the offender is found, or into which he is first brought." The three defendants who were found in New York were citizens of the United States and were certainly subject to such laws as it might pass to protect itself and its property. Clearly it is no offense to the dignity or right of sovereignty of Brazil to hold them for this crime against the government to which they owe allegiance. The other defendant is a subject of Great Britain. He has never been apprehended, and it will be time enough to consider what, if any, jurisdiction the District
The judgment of the District Court is reversed, with directions to overrule the demurrer and for further proceedings.
Whoever shall make or cause to be made or present or cause to be presented, for payment or approval, to or by any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, or any department thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, any claim upon or against the Government of the United States, or any department or officer thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent; or whoever, for the purpose of obtaining or aiding to obtain the payment or approval of such claim, or for the purpose and with the intent of cheating and swindling or defrauding the Government of the United States, or any department thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, shall knowingly and willfully falsify or conceal or cover up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or make or cause to be made any false or fraudulent statements or representations, or make or use or cause to be made or used any false bill, receipt, voucher, roll, account, claim, certificate, affidavit, or deposition, knowing the same to contain any fraudulent or fictitious statement or entry; or whoever shall take and carry away or take for his own use, or for the use of another, with intent to steal or purloin, any personal property of the United States, or any branch or department thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder; or whoever shall enter into any agreement, combination, or conspiracy to defraud the Government of the United States, or any department or officer thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, by obtaining or aiding to obtain the payment or allowance of any false or fraudulent claim; and whoever, having charge, possession, custody, or control of any money or other public property used or to be used in the military or naval service, with intent to defraud the United States, or any department thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, or willfully to conceal such money or other property, shall deliver or cause to be delivered to any person having authority to receive the same any amount of such money or other property less than that for which he received a certificate or took a receipt; or whoever, being authorized to make or deliver any certificate, voucher, receipt, or other paper certifying the receipt of arms, ammunition, provisions, clothing, or other property so used or to be used, shall make or deliver the same to any other person without a full knowledge of the truth of the facts stated therein and with intent to defraud the United States, or any department thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. And whoever shall purchase, or receive in pledge, from any person any arms, equipment, ammunition, clothing, military stores, or other property furnished by the United States, under a clothing allowance or otherwise, to any soldier, sailor, officer, cadet, or midshipman in the military or naval service of the United States or of the National Guard or Naval Militia, or to any person accompanying, servicing, or retained with the land or naval forces and subject to military or naval law, having knowledge or reason to believe that the property has been taken from the possession of the United States or furnished by the United States under such allowance, shall be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.