Cuban connection costs US software company

Vendor cops fine after client uses its application for Cuban project

A Colorado software vendor has been fined 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 has announced.

Platte River Associates (PRA) pled guilty to the trading-with-the-enemy charge last October. The company was sentenced on September 9.

PRA's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

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 traveled 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.

Jay Leonard, president of Platte River Associates, 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 license 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. Meanwhile, Leonard has also been found guilty of unathorised access of a protected computer and will serve a 12 month supervised probation sentence. 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 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 website without authorisation, 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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Tags repsolplatte river associatesjay leonard

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