US software firm sentenced for 'trading with the enemy'

Cuban heels

A US software company has been sentenced by a federal judge for "trading with the enemy."

Platte River Associates, a geologic modeling firm in Colorado, was fined $14,500 for selling software used to make a model for potential exploration and development of oil and gas within the territorial waters of Cuba, the US Department of Justice said.

The United States has imposed a commercial, economic, and financial embargo on Cuba since the 1960s in response to the country's alignment with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Platte River's case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security's investigative arm, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

"Preventing sensitive technologies and information from being exported to prohibited countries is a primary mission area for ICE," stated Jeffery Copp, the special agent helming the investigation. "ICE uses its unique customs law enforcement authorities and investigation skills to ensure that these sensitive technologies don't fall into the wrong hands."

According to the DoJ, the Spanish oil company Repsol purchased Platte River software in August, 2000. A Repsol employee was then spirited to Platte's headquarters in Boulder, Colorado for software training, bringing with him project data involving Cuban waters.

The DoJ claims Platte's president, Jay Leonard, knew the data was for a Cuban project but made no attempt to stop the training. As the Repsol employee was leaving the United States, Customs agents seized his laptop and discovered materials related to the potential Cuban venture.

Platte pleaded guilty to the trading with the enemy charge in 2008 and was sentenced September 9, 2009.

"Trading with the enemy is a serious crime, and in this case, a Colorado company has been rightfully held accountable for committing that crime," stated United States Attorney David Gaouette.

(It should be noted, however, that while trading with the enemy is essentially light treason in the eyes of the United States government — Platte's fine is 0.75% of the damages had the company illegally downloaded 24 songs.)

The DoJ noted Platte's president Leonard was also sentenced to serve 12 months of supervised probation in an unrelated charge of illegally accessing a rival oil and gas exploration software company and downloading password protected files. ®

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