Oil software firm sentenced for trading with Cuba

A Colorado software vendor has been sentenced to a fine of US$14,500 for the charge of trading with the enemy for selling oil- and gas-exploration software to a company drilling in Cuba, the US Department of Justice and US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced.

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A Colorado software vendor has been sentenced to a fine of US$14,500 for the charge of trading with the enemy for selling oil- and gas-exploration software to a company drilling in Cuba, the US Department of Justice and US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced.

In addition, Jay Leonard, president of Platte River Associates, will serve 12 months of supervised probation for unauthorised access of a protected computer in an unrelated case, the DOJ said.

The company plead guilty to the trading-with-the-enemy charge and Leonard pled guilty to the hacking charge last October. The company was sentenced for the trading-with-the-enemy charge Sept. 9.

The company's lawyer was not immediately available for comment on the two cases.

Federal agents warned Platte River Associates (PRA) in 1998 that dealing directly or indirectly with embargoed countries, including Cuba, is illegal, the DOJ said.

Then in August 2000, Spanish oil company Repsol purchased PRA software. In October 2000, a Repsol employee travelled to PRA's Boulder, Colorado, office for software training. The Repsol employee told the PRA geologist that the data being used for training was for a Cuban project, the DOJ said.

Leonard also learned that the data being used involved Cuban waters, but PRA did not stop the training, the DOJ said. As the Repsol employee was leaving the US, Customs seized his laptop computer, and an analysis of the laptop revealed materials related to a potential Cuban project, the DOJ said.

The DOJ accused PRA of providing specialised technical computer software and computer training, which was then used to create a model for the potential exploration and development of oil and gas within the territorial waters of Cuba, without first having obtained a licence from the US Secretary of the Treasury.

"Trading with the enemy is a serious crime, and in this case, a Colorado company has been rightfully held accountable for committing that crime," US Attorney David Gaouette, of the District of Colorado, said in a statement.

In the hacking case, the DOJ accused Leonard of illegally accessing the website of Zetaware, an oil- and gas-exploration software company and a competitor of PRA. During the intrusion, in October 2005, Zetaware's password-protected files were downloaded via a wireless computer network at the Houston airport, the DOJ said.

Analysis by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation found that Leonard used PRA assets and resources to access Zetaware's password-protected Web site without authorization, in an attempt to obtain confidential information, the DOJ said.

Last November, Leonard led a PRA staff meeting about a plan to exploit the downloaded Zetaware files, the DOJ said.

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