South Florida Residents Convicted of Attempting to Illegally Export Controlled Items to Libya
A federal jury convicted a pair of Florida residents yesterday for their roles in an illegal exports scheme. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Peter Sotis, 57, of Delray Beach, and Emilie Voissem, 45, of Sunrise, participated in a scheme to cause the illegal export of rebreather diving equipment to Libya in August 2016.
Rebreathers enable a diver to operate undetected for long periods of time underwater by producing little to no bubbles and by efficiently re-circulating the diver’s own breath after replacing its carbon dioxide with oxygen. Because of these enhanced capabilities, rebreathers have a dual use, with both civilian and military applications, and are specifically included on the Commerce Control List, which is the list of dual use items that are export controlled and licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (DOC-BIS). Such restricted items require a DOC-BIS license if the rebreathers are to be exported to any countries with national security concerns, such as Libya.
The defendants were warned that it was illegal to export the items to Libya without a license and they willfully attempted to export those items after receiving an instruction from a Department of Commerce special agent that such items were detained and not to be exported while a license determination was pending. The exhibits and testimony at trial showed that the defendants lied to and misled Ramas LLC, a shipping company in Virginia, about what the agent had told them and about whether the rebreathers had a military use. Testimony at trial also showed that Sotis threatened a government witness not to cooperate with the federal investigation.
Sotis and Voissem were both convicted of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), attempted violation of the IEEPA and smuggling. Voissem was found not guilty of making false statements to a federal agency. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6, 2022 and face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for attempting to violate the IEEPA, a maximum of 5 years and a $250,000 fine for the IEEPA conspiracy, and a maximum of 10 years and a $250,000 fine for smuggling. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge Ariel Joshua Leinwand, Department of Commerce, BIS, Office of Export Enforcement Miami Field Office, which oversees investigations in the southeast; and Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (ICE-HSI) Miami Field Office made the announcement.
The DOC-BIS and ICE-HSI investigated the case.
Trial Attorney Nathan Swinton of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Thakur and Andy Camacho of the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case.