Eric Baird, former CEO of the Sarasota-based package consolidation and shipping service Access USA Shipping, has agreed to pay $17M for willful violations of Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) regulations.

The civil penalty is the largest to be paid by an individual in BIS history.

On December 18, 2018, Baird entered a guilty plea to 166 counts of U.S. export control laws administrative violations, stemming from Access USA intentionally misrepresenting values and descriptions of items on export documentation, and shipping items listed on the Commerce Control List (CCL) without the appropriate licenses. For example, the Federal Register lists at least once instance where laser sights were identified as “tools and hardware.”

In addition to his own willful export violations, Baird also caused, aided, or abetted Access USA employees, forwarders, and carriers to make false or misleading SED/AES filings with the U.S. Government, and, in some cases, failure to submit any filings for an export shipment.

Under Baird’s direction, employees of Access USA also purchased items for client using Baird’s personal credit card and their own personal cards. They were also instructed to have items delivered to their personal addresses for the express purpose of obscuring the intended recipient of the good purchased.

“Willfully and Intentionally”

Baird and other members of Access USA’s management were aware that their conduct constituted violations of export controls. They had previously received an outreach visit from the BIS’s Office of Export Enforcement, during which they were provided with detailed information related to complying with Export Administration Regulations (EAR), as well as the penalties for violating these regulations. Additionally, in an email to Baird relating to the company’s practice of intentionally undervaluing shipments, his sister, Access USA’s Chief Technology Officer, made it known to Baird that she was not willing to continue being part of the practice of “WILLINGLY AND INTENTIONALLY breaking the law.”

As part of his plea, Baird has been assessed a civil penalty of $17M, and faces a five-year suspension of his export privileges—including not being allowed to apply for export licenses, become involved in negotiations related to any transaction involving any export; or benefiting from any export transaction.

Baird is set to face sentencing on January 30, 2019, where it is expected he will be sentenced to two years of probation on a single criminal count.