Florida court serves up trade convictions
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida announced two convictions and an indictment late last week in three separate illicit trade-related cases.
On March 5, the U.S. Attorney's Office, together with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Edward Saul Arias Ducker, a Honduran national, has been convicted on charges of smuggling large quantities of queen conch from Honduran waters and laundered through Colombia to customers throughout Canada and the United States.
From May 2004 to November 2006, Arias, and other co-conspirators, including the owners of Caribbean Conch and Placeres & Sons Seafood, both in Hialeah, Fla., caused the shipment of more than 115,000 pounds of queen conch without the proper U.S. permits. Arias role included arranging for vessels to transfer the conch to Colombian vessels at sea for landing and processing in Colombia. Search warrants executed in both Canada and United States resulted in the seizure of more than 63,000 pounds of illegally traded queen conch with a retail value of $1.72 million.
The charges in the indictment carry a possible sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a criminal fine of $250,000. Arias' sentencing is scheduled for May 15.
Also on March 5, the U.S. Attorney's Office and ICE announced that Roman Vidal was arraigned on an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Miami on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud involving a cigarette smuggling operation.
According to the indictment, the investigation revealed that an organization smuggling cigarettes out of the Port of Miami operated out of Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Miami. Vidal ran the Miami portion of the operation.
Vidal arranged for the purchase of hundreds of cases of cigarettes from Panama to Miami. He arranged for the purchase of other cargo, such as wood flooring and building insulation material to use as cover loads to hide the cigarettes.
Information contained in the affidavit includes that on two separate occasions, Vidal transported about 13.3 million cigarettes in shipments, one to Dublin, Ireland, and one to Felixstowe, U.K. Based on the false bills of lading, customs duties and taxes paid on these shipments were about $2,900 and $2,500 respectively. The true customs duties and taxes should have been paid on these shipments were $2.1 million each.
On March 6, the U.S. Attorney's Office, together with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Commerce Department's Office of Export Enforcement, said Joseph Piquet was convicted on all counts by a federal jury in Fort Pierce, Fla., on seven counts of attempting to buy high-tech military-use electronic components from Northrop Grumman Corp. for shipping to Hong Kong and China without first obtaining the required export licenses.
Among the items involved in the export conspiracy were high power amplifiers designed for use by the U.S. military in early warning radar and missile target acquisition systems. The purchases were made between March 2004 and February 2005.
Piquet is scheduled for sentencing on May 14. ' Chris Gillis