Miami, Florida — A federal district judge has sentenced two Florida residents for conspiring to and illegally attempting to export controlled items to Libya.
Peter Sotis, 57, of Delray Beach and Emilie Voissem, 45, of Sunrise were convicted in October 2021, following a one-week jury trial in Miami. Sotis was sentenced to 57 months in prison and Voissem was sentenced to a split sentence of five months in prison and five months of home confinement.
The defendants were involved in a scheme that caused 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. Such restricted items require a Commerce Department license if the rebreathers are to be exported to any countries with national security concerns, such as Libya.
Sotis was the 80% owner of Add Helium, a diving equipment and training company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Voissem was the Add Helium office manager. The defendants were warned that it was illegal to export the items to Libya without a Commerce Department 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 mislead Ramas LLC, a shipping company in Virginia, about what the Commerce 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.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ariel Joshua Leinwand, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement (DOC) Miami Field Office; and Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
DOC-Miami and HSI-Miami investigated the case, with valuable assistance from FBI Miami and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Thakur and Andy Camacho of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Nathan Swinton of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling asset forfeiture.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 19-cr-20693.