OFAC Settles Enforcement Action with Individual for $5000

I often remind readers – government prosecutors regularly tell you what they  plan to do in advance, and then they do it.  So do not be surprised when the government does something they told you they would do.

In May 2019, OFAC issued its Framework for Sanctions Compliance Commitments.  As part of its Guidance. OFAC noted that it intended to increase enforcement actions against individual actors.  OFAC already has made good on its promise.

In a recent enforcement action, OFAC released its settlement with an individual (US Person-1) who agreed to pay $5000 for 24 illegal transactions with a foreign individual who was a specially designated narcotics trafficker (“SDN”). 

While US Person-1 was not identified, OFAC noted the individual was a civilian direct hire of the US Army who was stationed in the US Embassy in Bogota, Colombia.  US Person-1 held a security clearance and worked at several national security-related positions prior to being assigned to the Bogota US embassy.  OFAC noted that US Person-1 had a personal relationship with the SDN while stationed at the overseas embassy.

In 2015, the SDN was in the Bogota embassy for a meeting regarding the SDN’s designation status.  The SDN was accompanied by another individual who OFAC later designated as a specifically designated narcotics trafficker (SDN-2).  SDN-2 was designated after US Person-1 committed the violations at issue in this settlement. 

US Person-1 did not attend the meeting at the Bogota embassy, but had a preexisting professional relationship with SDN-2.  After the meeting at the Bogota embassy, SDN-2 introduced SDN to US Person-1.  Shortly after the introduction, US Person-1 and SDN maintained contact and started a personal relationship. 

US Person-1 knew that he/she was having a personal relationship with an SDN.  Nonetheless, over a one year period, US Person-1 bought jewelry, meals, clothing, hotel rooms and other gifts for SDN while SDN was seeking to remove his/her OFAC designation.  The total value of the transactions was approximately $3,349.33.

US Person-1 conducted internet research concerning the legality of the transactions he/she engaged in with the SDN.  US Person-1 did not seek further counseling or advice from embassy personnel or the US Army.

US Person-1 did not voluntarily disclose the action.  OFAC cited the fact that US Person-1 failed to exercise an appropriate degree of caution or care and did not seek any guidance from available resources at the Bogota embassy to determine the legality of US Person-1’s relationship with the SDN.  OFAC further noted as an aggravating factor that US Person-1 was a US government employee stationed overseas in a national security position and failed to exercise judgment and caution while handling sensitive security information.

US Person-1 was terminated from his/her position at the Bogota embassy, and the US Army took disciplinary action against US Person-1.  As a mitigating factor, OFAC noted that the transactions involved personal in nature with no secondary value.  Also, US Person-1 fully cooperated with the investigation, was interviewed and promptly responded to OFAC inquiries for information.

OFAC reminded members of the military and civil service stationed abroad that they should exercise care when engaging in personal relationships with foreign persons who may have a sanctions nexus.

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