Kentucky man faces $750,000 fine, possible jail time for violating Canada's Quarantine Act

Julia Fair and The Associated Press, Cincinnati Enquirer
·4 min read
John Pennington, of Walton, Ky., told his Facebook followers about being told to leave Canada after he stayed in the country during its travel ban.
John Pennington, of Walton, Ky., told his Facebook followers about being told to leave Canada after he stayed in the country during its travel ban.

A Kentucky man traveled to a Canadian resort for some fun during the pandemic.

Instead, he got a visit from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for violating Canada's Quarantine Act – and now faces big fines and possible jail time.

John Pennington, 40, of Walton, Kentucky, was fined $1,200 on June 25 after staff at a Banff hotel called the police saying they believed the U.S. citizen was violating COVID-19 quarantine laws.

He could also face a fine of up to $750,000 or six months in jail.

Pennington could not be immediately reached for comment.

Americans are not allowed into Canada. But many have used a loophole to travel through Canada on the way to and from Alaska.

Fewer than 10,000 Canadians have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 180,000 people in the U.S. have died.

“RCMP attended the hotel and as a result of their investigation, they found a second individual in his presence, a female from Calgary, and found him to be breaching the requirements to quarantine while he traveled through Alberta, so he was issued a ticket under the Alberta Public Health Act,” said RCMP Cpl. Tammy Keibel in Calgary.

Pennington, who calls himself Mister Collagen on social media, told his Facebook followers about the incident in a video on June 26. His page includes weight loss tips and motivational quotes. As of Tuesday, more than 2,000 people had watched the video of Pennington explaining the incident.

He flew to Seattle and traveled to Canada and Alaska, he said in the video. He added that he didn't understand why police visited his hotel room after he was approved by border patrol. Local police didn't stop him and the hotel allowed him to check in.

"I thought I was good to go," he said in the video. He added that he would have understood if the hotel told him he wasn't allowed to stay when he booked the room.

In the comments, someone asked him how he was able to pass border patrol. He said he told patrol officers that he was traveling for "transit purposes," adding a winky emoji.

In July, Canada implemented strict rules about Americans entering the country who say they are headed to Alaska.

The Canada Border Services Agency only allows such travelers to enter at one of five crossings: Abbotsford-Huntingdon (British Columbia), Kingsgate (British Columbia), Osoyoos (British Columbia), Coutts (Alberta) and North Portal (Saskatchewan).

Drivers are allowed a reasonable period of stay to make the transit and are limited to travel within Canada using the most direct route to Alaska.

They are barred from driving through national parks, leisure sites and tourism locations, and receive a hang tag for their rear-view mirror indicating the date they must depart Canada.

Keibel said officers received a second complaint about the Kentucky man the next day when someone spotted a car with American plates in a parking lot near the gondola to Sulphur Mountain.

“They located Mr. Pennington up on Sulphur Mountain. As a result of him again allegedly being in violation of the quarantine through his travels, there was some consultation with a quarantine officer in Calgary and the decision was made to charge Mr. Pennington under the federal Quarantine Act,” Keibel said.

“He was arrested and subsequently released for a court date in November.”

Keibel said she was not aware of any other charge under the Quarantine Act.

She said those violating the rules are given strict instructions and Pennington had received a warning after his initial ticket.

“You don’t expect it. You would hope people would follow the direction provided and comply with the laws in place, especially after it was made clear what the expectations are,” she said.

Keibel said Pennington was escorted out of the park boundaries and told to continue on his journey.

3 things I wish I had known before traveling to stay in a 4 Star Resort & treated like a criminal in the middle of the night

Posted by John Pennington on Friday, June 26, 2020

Julia Fair is the Northern Kentucky government reporter through the Report For America program. Anonymous donors pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with The Enquirer. If you want to support Julia's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at this website or email her editor, Carl Weiser, at cweiser@cincinna.gannett.com to find out how you can help fund her work.

Do you know something she should know? Send her a note at jfair@enquirer.com and follow her on twitter at @JFair_Reports.

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This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Kentucky man faces fine, jail for violating Canada's Quarantine Act