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FALLS DAREDEVIL FACES CHARGES OF SMUGGLING LIQUOR

FALLS DAREDEVIL FACES CHARGES OF SMUGGLING LIQUOR

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Niagara Falls daredevil Jeffrey Petkovich paid a $425 fine after going over the Horseshoe Falls in a barrel in 1989. Now he allegedly has taken a fall of a different kind that could cost him 50 times that, plus serious jail time.

Petkovich, 34, is scheduled to appear in a criminal court in St. Catharines, Ont., Tuesday on charges of smuggling more than $3 million worth of liquor into Canada.

After his successful plunge over the falls in a steel barrel with fellow daredevil Peter DeBernardi, Petkovich said, "We wanted to show kids there's a lot better things to do than be on the brink of dope. Go on the brink of the falls, you'll see what a high is all about."

At the time, the two said the barrel plunge was part of a campaign against drug abuse. On the side of their 12-foot, reinforced steel tank, which contained two oxygen tanks, Plexiglas windows and a video camera to film the stunt, was the slogan: "Don't Put Yourself on the Edge -- Drugs Will Kill."

"Drugs, alcohol -- there's a thin line between them," said one officer involved in the arrest of Petkovich and three others June 25 on charges of smuggling and conspiracy to smuggle.

Petkovich, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.; his brother, Todd; and former Canadian Customs agents Paul Pelfrey and David Vant, all of Niagara Falls, Ont., were arrested after a two-year investigation by the Customs and Excise Section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They currently are free on bail, said Sgt. Paul Carr of the RCMP's Hamilton-Niagara detachment.

The suspects purchased the alcohol in Baltimore and tried to confound authorities by transporting it through the Bahamas into Florida, California and finally Niagara Falls, Ont., police said.

Neither Jeffrey Petkovich nor his attorney, Brian Greenspan of Toronto, returned phone calls seeking comment.

DeBernardi, 42, and Jeffrey Petkovich, who was one day shy of 25, climbed into their barrel at about 4:30 p.m. Sept. 28, 1989. As tourists watched, crew members rolled the barrel over a steel railing 200 yards from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls.

Parts of the steel plating covering the inner insulation were ripped off in the plunge, but both daredevils escaped with minor cuts.

"It felt like a roller-coaster ride," Petkovich said afterward.

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