Most of us have visited eBay to sell or buy an item. (After all, who wouldn’t want to bid on such things as an autographed air guitar or a handmade ghost detector?) However, if you’re going to sell an item on eBay, in addition to making sure there’s a market for your products, you better also make sure you’re complying with U.S. export regulations. Enforcement agencies are setting up sting operations to ensure sellers are securing the necessary approvals for export controlled items.
Anthony J. Torresi, a Florida resident, thought he was selling $7,000 worth of night vision equipment to a New Zealand customer on eBay. Unbeknownst to him, the person he was actually selling to is an undercover agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) located in Baltimore, MD. Mr. Torresi did not secure the proper export license required for shipping the night vision equipment to New Zealand. As further evidence of his guilt, the seller undervalued the shipment ($70 instead of $7,000 – just a couple zeroes short of the truth!) He also marked the shipping paperwork and packaging as a “rangefinder” in the hopes of avoiding questions by U.S. and foreign customs officials.
Mr. Torresi received an 18-month prison sentence followed by three years of supervised probation. He is lucky, considering that the maximum penalty for an export violation under the ITAR is 20 years in prison.
This story serves as a good reminder for online retailers and parcel shipping firms – even those who sell “air guitars.” Traditionally, eCommerce companies haven’t been targeted as much as others in the manufacturing sectors. However, it’s important to remember that the rules apply to them just as much as anyone else.
Tom Reynolds is the Vice President of Operations for Export Solutions, a consultancy firm which specializes in helping companies with import/export compliance.