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N.J. Man Pays Brazil 'Finger' Fine

A New Jersey man fined more than $17,000 for making an obscene gesture during fingerprinting procedures for U.S. citizens in Brazil headed home Sunday, police said.

Douglas A. Skolnick was allowed to leave the southeastern resort town of Foz do Iguacu, 500 miles southeast of Sao Paulo, after paying $17,200 for raising his middle finger when he was fingerprinted and photographed.

The customs requirements were imposed in response to similar U.S. rules for citizens of Brazil and many other countries. The United States says its rules will help prevent terrorists from entering the country.

Skolnick and another 91 passengers of his tour group boarded their chartered plane on Sunday morning and flew to Manaus, capital of the jungle state of Amazonas located some 1,612 miles northwest of Sao Paulo, said federal police spokesman Marcos Koren.

The group was expected to remain in Manaus for a couple of days before flying back to the United States. "He is free to roam around Manaus," Koren said by phone. "He and Brazil are even."

Skolnick, 55, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., arrived in Brazil on Friday from Chile with a group of mostly retired Americans and was charged with showing contempt to authorities.

Called before a judge, he said he made the gesture as a joke and apologized, Koren said.

Globo TV aired footage Saturday showing Skolnick entering a jail cell and telling Brazilian journalists, "I'm an American citizen. I'm not a monkey."

On Jan. 14, American Airlines pilot Dale Robin Hersh was arrested on the same charge after making a similar gesture when he was fingerprinted in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. Hersh returned home after paying a $12,750 fine.