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Colorado Company Settles St. Patrick’s Day Export Control Surprise

The Rocky Mount Instrument (“RMI”) company yesterday pled guilty to one count of violating U.S. export control laws.  The court sentenced the company to five years probation and a $1 million fine. “Today’s guilty plea and sentencing against RMI illustrates that illegally exporting sensitive U.S. technology is a crime taken seriously by the U.S. Government,” said Kumar Kibble, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE office in Denver.

RMI designs and manufactures optical components and assemblies for laser and imaging applications.  The headquarters and primary manufacturing facility is located in Lafayette, Colorado.  According to the company website, RMI has additional offshore subsidiaries in Korea (the website does not say South, but we guess it is) and Russia.

Federal authorities raided the facility in 2007.  At the time a corporate official claimed that the company had committed a “procedural violation” for allowing certain products to go overseas.  $1,000,000 and five years probation later, the company is singing a slightly different,  more contrite tune. In its most recent statement issued yesterday, a spokesman says that “the errors we experienced were examined carefully, we took substantial remedial measures, implemented new controls and are now conducting operations at RMI as a model in this industry with respect to U.S. export controls.”

There was a lot more here than procedural errors and, even if that were the case, it is no defense.  According to the Justice Department the technical drawings in question that were exported without U.S. Government authorization were for components used in the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the optical sight for the TOW missile system, as well as a lens used as part of a .50 caliber gun sight then being used by troops in Iraq, among others.

The Justice Department release says that RMI “knowingly and willfully exported and caused to be exported from the United States to Turkey, South Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and Russia, defense articles, that is, prisms and technical data related to various optics used in military applications, which were designated as defense articles on the United States Munitions List, without having first obtained from the United States Department of State a license or written authorization for such exports.”

The company was originally charged by information on March 17, 2010, St. Patrick’s Day.

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