Two Florida residents were sentenced yesterday for conspiring to and illegally attempting to export controlled items to Libya.
Peter Sotis, 57, of Delray Beach, and Emilie Voissem of Sunrise, were convicted in October 2021 following a one-week jury trial in Miami. Sotis was sentenced to 57 months in prison, and Voissem was sentenced to a split sentence of five months in prison and five months of home confinement.
According to court documents, the charges stem from the defendants’ scheme to cause the illegal export of rebreather diving equipment to Libya in August 2016. Rebreathers enable a diver to operate undetected for long periods of time underwater by producing little to no bubbles and by efficiently re-circulating the diver’s own breath after replacing its carbon dioxide with oxygen. Because of these enhanced capabilities, rebreathers have a dual use, with both civilian and military applications, and are specifically included on the Commerce Control List, which is the list of dual use items that are export controlled and licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). Such restricted items require a Commerce Department license if the rebreathers are to be exported to any countries with national security concerns, such as Libya.
Sotis was the 80% owner of Add Helium, a diving equipment and training company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Voissem was the Add Helium office manager. The defendants were warned that it was illegal to export the items to Libya without a DOC license and they willfully attempted to export those items after receiving an instruction from a DOC special agent that such items were detained and not to be exported while a license determination was pending. The exhibits and testimony at trial showed that the defendants lied to and misled Ramas LLC, a shipping company in Virginia, about what the DOC agent had told them and about whether the rebreathers had a military use. Testimony at trial also showed that Sotis threatened a government witness not to cooperate with the federal investigation.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division; U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge Ariel Joshua Leinwand of the DOC’s Office of Export Enforcement Miami Office; and Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Miami Office made the announcement.
DOC and HSI investigated the case with valuable assistance provided by the FBI’s Miami Field Office and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Thakur and Andy Camacho of the Southern District of Florida, and Trial Attorney Nathan Swinton of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.