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The Letters - Update December 21, 2008


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#41 Mark Twain

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 10:48 PM

I'm processing some OFAC documents that have recently been cited on another board. I believe there might be some information as to the triggering of the W and R-Letters.


I have a strange feeling that all the wonderful info Wilkey gives us comes from the fact that he is really a super computer attached to a draw machine. :D

#42 Ginseng

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 11:43 AM

Late Breaking News

One fellow has been kind enough to bring us along with him as he deals with the R-Letter. The alleged purchases were made from a dealer in the Asia-Pacific region between January and March of 2005. A major credit card would have been the vehicle of purchase. He received the R-Letter approximately 2 months ago. The action he took was to not respond to the request for information by ignoring the letter. This past Saturday, he received a Prepenalty Notice. Some of the text of the letter was posted on another forum and is copied below. I've communicated privately with this individual and I consider his information to be trustworthy.

"We have reason to believe that you engaged in certain transactions…"

"You are hereby notified that OFAC intends to issue a claim against you for a civil monetary penalty of $1,170.00."

"You have the right to make a written presentation as to why you believe there should be no findings of violation(s) or why, If you admit to violation(s), a civil monetary penalty should not be imposed or should be a lesser amount than the proposed in this Prepenalty Notice."
The Penalty Notice will state the final penalty amount, which may be lower than the amount proposed in this Prepenalty Notice based on mitigating factors, and will inform you of your right to submit, within 30 days of service of the Penalty Notice, a written request for an administrative hearing on this matter. If you do not request an administrative hearing within 30 days…the final penalty amount will be imposed on you."

"…this matter may be referred to the United States Department of Justice for collection if the final penalty amount is not paid within 30 days…"

So, right now we know that ignoring the R-Letter will draw a Prepenalty Notice from OFAC that notifies the individual of a monetary penalty. I believe this circumstance must be the same as for the individual who was "penalized" as detailed in the December release I linked to a couple of posts above.

Now the only remaining unknown is OFAC's response to an R-Letter response of the form that was posted earlier in this thread. That would be the "no information and decline to respond under the Fifth" letter.

#43 PTownshend

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:36 PM

So, right now we know that ignoring the R-Letter will draw a Prepenalty Notice from OFAC that notifies the individual of a monetary penalty. I believe this circumstance must be the same as for the individual who was "penalized" as detailed in the December release I linked to a couple of posts above.

Now the only remaining unknown is OFAC's response to an R-Letter response of the form that was posted earlier in this thread. That would be the "no information and decline to respond under the Fifth" letter.


Wilkey,
Do we know how much of a purchase this was? One lump sum or several over the course of time (stated as "January and March of 2005").

Thanks for sharing this and your continued efforts on this subject matter.

Darren

#44 BigBen1

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 09:35 PM

Has anybody ever confessed to wrong doing from the beginning letter? From the looks of it they might be easy on you or just warn you not to do it again.

#45 Saxjazzman

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 06:48 PM

Just put on your aluminum foil hat and you'll be ok.


Do I sense a bit of ridicule here in terms of aluminum foil hats??? I want you to know that I have one that I often wear every time I get messages from aliens!! (Or when I wife yells at me for smoking cigars). :D

#46 Saxjazzman

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 07:14 PM

Representative R-Letter, Request to Furnish Information

The United States Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") administers a comprehensive trade embargo and assets freeze against Cuba as promulgated in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515 (the "Regulations"), issued pursuant to the Trading with the Enemy Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq. ("TWEA") and the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, 22 U.S.C. 6001-10 ("CDA"). The Regulations prohibit virtually all direct or indirect commercial, financial, or trade transactions of any nature with Cuba by any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, except as authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury or exempted by statute. Section 515.201(b) of the Regulations prohibits persons subject to United States jurisdiction from engaging in transactions involving property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest of any nature whatsoever, direct or indirect, unless exempt or authorized by OFAC. Included in this prohibition is the importation of Cuban origin goods (including cigars) into the U.S.

Section 515.204 prohibits persons subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. from purchasing, transporting, importing or otherwise dealing in or engaging in any transacting with respect to any merchandise (including cigars) outside the U.S. if such merchandise is of Cuban origin.

Attached for your information is a Cuban cigar update published by this office which explains the embargo as it pertains to Cuban cigars.

It has come to our attention that on [number] occasions between January 31, 2004 and October 1, 2005, you purchased Cuban Cigars XXX, located in XXX.

Pursuant to the authorities granted in section 5(b) of TWEA and section 501.602 of the Reporting and Procedures Regulations, 31, C.F.R. Part 501, you are herby required to furnish OFAC with a written report detailing a complete history of your involvement in the purchase, production, importation and sale of Cuban origin cigars.

Your report must include the following information at a minimum:

1. The dates, quantity, and value of Cuban cigars or tobacco purchased by you. Indicate the method of payment. (If another party purchased Cuban cigars or tobacco on your behalf, identify that party.)

2. Copies of all transactional documents, such as: invoices, bills of sale, receipts or other documents pertaining to the purchase of Cuban cigars or tobacco.

3. If you purchased Cuban cigars or tobacco outside the U.S., explain the method by which you imported the cigars into the U.S.

4. Any additional information related to the purchase, production, or sale of cigars by you that is relevant to this matter.

Your report is due at OFAC not later than 20 business days from date of receipt of this letter. It should be sent to [_____________] at the following address:

Department of the Treasury
Office of Foreign Assets Control
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. (Annex)
Washington DC 20220

Criminal penalties for violation of the Regulations range up to 10 years in prison and $1 million in corporate and $250,000 in individual fines. Civil penalties of up to $65,000 per violation may be imposed administratively by OFAC.

You should also be aware that failure to respond to this letter may result in the imposition of civil penalties. If you have any questions, call Mr. [________] at (202) xxx-xxxx




Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I find this interesting. The language seems to indicate that even purchasing Cuban cigars overseas and smoking them there, never mind bringing them into the country is in contravention of the law. I know a lot of good soldiers going coming back from missions tonight in Iraq and Afghanistan who are in contravention of the law. It is one of the things we did to relax and to celebrate that we had no KIA. The PX, Post Exchange, does not sell Cubans, but most of the local civilian merchants do. Hell, the guys from the CIA are some of the biggest offenders. It is my humble opinion that this law is so unevenly inforced as to make it border on unfair. I am not saying that Govenor Shwartznegger or Sylvestor Stallone have ever smoked or possessed Cuban cigars, let alone purchased them, as that would be illegal, but one wonders.

What about all the reviews in cA and Smoke magazine on cubars? How did they get them to review? Are they acquiring the Cubans to review to be published in their magazines considered 'trade transactions"? They are American business and part of their business to somehow to acquire these Cubans for smoking to "trade" their reviews as profits acquired by their business in this country. I guess we can assume that they were not purchased while they were overseas, but rather they were gifted to them. The question no arises, what if you are gifted Cubans? Would that fall under the category of "trade" or is that permissible.

Just a few thoughts. Forgive if I have violated any protocols.

#47 grateful1

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 07:40 PM

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I find this interesting. The language seems to indicate that even purchasing Cuban cigars overseas and smoking them there, never mind bringing them into the country is in contravention of the law. I know a lot of good soldiers going coming back from missions tonight in Iraq and Afghanistan who are in contravention of the law. It is one of the things we did to relax and to celebrate that we had no KIA. The PX, Post Exchange, does not sell Cubans, but most of the local civilian merchants do. Hell, the guys from the CIA are some of the biggest offenders. It is my humble opinion that this law is so unevenly inforced as to make it border on unfair. I am not saying that Govenor Shwartznegger or Sylvestor Stallone have ever smoked or possessed Cuban cigars, let alone purchased them, as that would be illegal, but one wonders.

What about all the reviews in cA and Smoke magazine on cubars? How did they get them to review? Are they acquiring the Cubans to review to be published in their magazines considered 'trade transactions"? They are American business and part of their business to somehow to acquire these Cubans for smoking to "trade" their reviews as profits acquired by their business in this country. I guess we can assume that they were not purchased while they were overseas, but rather they were gifted to them. The question no arises, what if you are gifted Cubans? Would that fall under the category of "trade" or is that permissible.

Just a few thoughts. Forgive if I have violated any protocols.



This will answer your question regarding a gifted item. Linky

#48 Gonz

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 08:15 PM

I find this interesting. The language seems to indicate that even purchasing Cuban cigars overseas and smoking them there, never mind bringing them into the country is in contravention of the law.

Regardless of the language of the letters, the above action by a US citizen is illegal.


What about all the reviews in cA and Smoke magazine on cubars? How did they get them to review? Are they acquiring the Cubans to review to be published in their magazines considered 'trade transactions"?


You may notice that the reviews done on Cuban cigars in those such magazines are done by editors and reviewers that are not US citizens, to the best of my knowledge. And often when Marvin reviews a cigar, it is a pre-embargo (1959) cigar that he is reviewing.


But I digress, this thread is for discussing the letters, not the legality purchasing Cuban cigars. That much is very straightforward and not up for debate.

#49 Ginseng

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 08:21 PM

PTownsend,
The letters have identified up to eight purchases over a half year period. I do not know the individual purchase quantities.

BigBen1,
I do not know if anyone has furnished the information requested. I guess this might be the confession of wrongdoing you're speaking of? Looking at the related situation of travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, being upfront has not paid off.

Saxjazzman,
Grateful1 provided the link that partly answers your question. Basically if you are a U.S. citizen, you may not purchase cigars while outside the U.S. and neither may you bring them in even if they were gifted. However, that particular document does not speak to the personal use of goods of of Cuban origin while one is off U.S. territory.

Wilkey

#50 grateful1

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 08:44 PM

A couple of questions:

How were the transactions noticed/flagged?
Did the credit card company show them to the fed?
or
Did somebody's Ex tell the feds?

Where the transactions itemized...specifically listing embargo goods?
or
Where the transactions simply with a site that dealt with embargo products as well as other items?

Even though - as noted above - one person had multiple transactions...how were these listed (specific purchase or general).

To go into conspiracy mode...how did the feds get such data?

I'm sure more will be told.
Thanks for heading this up, Wilkey!

Edited by grateful1, 03 January 2007 - 08:50 PM.


#51 Saxjazzman

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 08:59 PM

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I find this interesting. The language seems to indicate that even purchasing Cuban cigars overseas and smoking them there, never mind bringing them into the country is in contravention of the law. I know a lot of good soldiers going coming back from missions tonight in Iraq and Afghanistan who are in contravention of the law. It is one of the things we did to relax and to celebrate that we had no KIA. The PX, Post Exchange, does not sell Cubans, but most of the local civilian merchants do. Hell, the guys from the CIA are some of the biggest offenders. It is my humble opinion that this law is so unevenly inforced as to make it border on unfair. I am not saying that Govenor Shwartznegger or Sylvestor Stallone have ever smoked or possessed Cuban cigars, let alone purchased them, as that would be illegal, but one wonders.

What about all the reviews in cA and Smoke magazine on cubars? How did they get them to review? Are they acquiring the Cubans to review to be published in their magazines considered 'trade transactions"? They are American business and part of their business to somehow to acquire these Cubans for smoking to "trade" their reviews as profits acquired by their business in this country. I guess we can assume that they were not purchased while they were overseas, but rather they were gifted to them. The question no arises, what if you are gifted Cubans? Would that fall under the category of "trade" or is that permissible.

Just a few thoughts. Forgive if I have violated any protocols.



This will answer your question regarding a gifted item. Linky



Thanks Grateful1 for the info and link.

#52 Black Plague

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 09:33 PM

This is a lot of conjecture and a little hearsay, so Wilkey feel free to clear up as much as you can...

But from what's been tossed around, it appears a certain widely-used money-sending site, which we'll just call PP, and/or the clearing house used by a Hong Kong vendor for credit card purchases, which we'll call WP, might have released customer data to the OFAC regarding international purchases.

As far as one vendor has said to those who email him/her, neither PP nor WP receive any kind of invoice from him/her, so it appears the OFAC has no hard evidence that people are actually purchasing Cuban cigars.....they're just putting two and two together by looking at the amount of money and looking at who the merchant receiving it is. That would seem to explain why the "R" letter requests you send invoices, purchase data, and all that jazz....because they don't have any hard evidence on you.

So one piece of the puzzle people have been debating is where self-incrimination fits into this, and whether you should plead the fifth or not. Because if they don't have hard evidence that you've violated the embargo...then isn't it self-incrimination to give them that data?

Hopefully, we'll find more answers to this puzzle as more lawyers are consulted and those already underway in dealing with the OFAC charges share their experience.

#53 bilder

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 09:55 PM

Invoke your 5th ammendment rights in a response. They cannot make you admit to anything.

Something like-

"I cannot recall purchasing the above mentioned goods, and if I had I would invoke my 5th Amendment rights perventing self incrimination."

Would something like this work as a response to such a letter?

#54 Black Plague

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 10:15 PM

Again, I must warn there's a lot of hearsay and conjecture going on.....

But an added complexity seems to be the difference between civil and criminal penalties.

As far as I know, these accusations fall in the civil realm and some have said you can't invoke your 5th Amendment right because of that. But I don't know if that's true in this case or not, because some other people apparently have and have not heard back....YET. Those who simply didn't respond have gotten the pre-penalty letter mentioned earlier.

Does anyone know if anyone invoking the 5th has gotten a pre-penalty notice or heard anything more yet?

Some people are worried that, because of this civil and criminal dimension, that if they cop to it and pay the ~1k fine, if they won't get slammed with a criminal penalty later, because coming up with the invoices and everything for the report they request of you in the "R" letter would incriminate you.

Scary stuff, man.....I'm sure Wilkey can elaborate more and sort it out a little better, but I thought I'd bring up the civil/criminal/5th aspect of it and facilitate some answers from those who know more about it.

I say again, take what I have to say with a grain of salt, because there's a lot of dialog being thrown back and forth in other places and not all of it could be true.


EDIT: Well, here it is from the Constitution itself..... "nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself" So if this is a civil matter, then I guess you can't invoke the 5th. If there's a lawyer in the house (and I know there is :whistling: ), please shed some more light on this matter. What happens if you stand to incriminate yourself in a civil case?

Edited by Black Plague, 03 January 2007 - 10:18 PM.


#55 Ginseng

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 10:48 PM

It is in an effort to avoid conjecture and hearsay that this thread has been so narrowly defined.

Gary,
1. All evidence suggestive of a conduit of information leading from the point of purchase to OFAC is speculative but circumstantially suggests that the vendors did not knowingly provide information to support these investigations. In fact, the amounts cited in the letters is suggestive that only the general amount of the transaction was known but does not rule out the fact that specific information might have been received and not detailed.

2. The letters did not itemize as to goods. The goods are specified only as "Cuban cigars" and dollar values are reported not to have been exact but rounded off values such as $250 and $500. Transactions were lumped into a time period and total number.

BlackPlague,
I'll be back tomorrow to see if I can summarize what you have added and asked.

Wilkey

#56 Black Plague

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 11:03 PM

Thanks Wilkey :thumbs:

#57 Mark Twain

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 12:12 AM

You may notice that the reviews done on Cuban cigars in those such magazines are done by editors and reviewers that are not US citizens, to the best of my knowledge. And often when Marvin reviews a cigar, it is a pre-embargo (1959) cigar that he is reviewing.


Shaken reviews Cuban cigars in the "connoisseur's corner" in every issue of CA I own from 2006 and most are from the early to late 1990s. I've cannot remember seeing where he reviewed a pre-embargo Cuban. He even has a picture of himself standing inside of his walk in humidor in the "editors' note" section surronded by boxes of Cuban cigars. ???

But I digress, this thread is for discussing the letters, not the legality purchasing Cuban cigars. That much is very straightforward and not up for debate.


Agreed, I apologize for the sidetrack. :blush:

#58 Black Plague

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 12:19 AM

As a US citizen, you're not even supposed to patronize Cuba when your outside the US.

And Shanken has hosted such notable all-Cuban events such as the Dinner of the Century.

But I'm sure an embargo violation fine is pocket change to him. It makes me curious if any action's ever been taken against him, as he's probably one of the most visible and flagrant violators of the embargo.

Edited by Black Plague, 04 January 2007 - 12:24 AM.


#59 Mark Twain

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 12:41 AM

As a US citizen, you're not even supposed to patronize Cuba when your outside the US.

And Shanken has hosted such notable all-Cuban events such as the Dinner of the Century.

But I'm sure an embargo violation fine is pocket change to him. It makes me curious if any action's ever been taken against him, as he's probably one of the most flagrant violators of the embargo.


I was told a story by my Uncle that I found quite entertaining about Shaken being “raided” by Federal agents several years ago. Federal agents apparently caught Marvin at work in his New York office and served him with a search warrant. He read the warrant as he sat behind his desk puffing away on a nice Cuban cigar. The agents proceeded to his walk in humidor and began to inventory his stockpile of Cuban cigars. Marvin asks one of the agents if he can make a phone call and the agent tells him that he can. At this point Marvin picks up his phone and pages his secretary. When she answers he tells her to take out a one page add in The New York Times and The Washington Post. The agents stop what they’re doing and stare at Marvin and listen to his phone conversation. He tells his secretary to make sure the page taken out in the paper is filled with the names of every major U.S. politician that he has sold Cuban cigars to over his life.

Marvin sets the phone down and the head agent walks over to his desk and asks if he might use Marvin’s phone to call his boss. The head agent phones his boss for a moment and is told to leave the building and replace any confiscated material as they found it.

Is this story true? I don’t know, but it sure as hell cracked me up.

#60 FlyFish

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:58 AM

Funny story, I am doubtfull that it is true, but good stuff nonetheless.




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