The trial of a Texas man charged with trying to smuggle tens of thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment into Cuba from the Florida Keys began this week in Miami federal court.
Bryan Singer, 46, who federal prosecutors say also goes by the name Bryan Blackheart, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on one count of smuggling goods outside the United States and five years for making false statements to federal agents.
After a grand jury indicted Singer in April, and before Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested him, Singer said in a phone interview that the only law he broke was not declaring the items he was about to ship from Stock Island to Cuba on May 2, 2017, aboard his boat, La Mala.
Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection boarded his vessel in Stock Island right as Singer was about to embark for Cuba, according to court records. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Shack stated in a June 6 filing that during the boarding, Singer told agents he was only shipping what was in plain sight.
But, agents entered the boat's cabin and noticed the bed looked as though it could be a storage compartment. They tried opening it, but it was secured by screws, Shack wrote.
Singer, according to court documents, told agents he did not know how the compartment opened. Agents then removed the screws and found "$33,000 worth of undeclared merchandize, including 303 Ubiquiti Nanostation M2 Network modems."
The equipment cannot be exported to Cuba without an export license because of the United States' trade embargo against its communist island neighbor.
"A records check revealed [Singer] never obtained an export license," Shack wrote.
According to court documents, Singer tried to make a similar delivery in December 2016, and was warned by agents, and he signed a Coast Guard form "certifying he was aware of export regulations and the U.S. embargo on Cuba," Shack wrote.
Specifically, Shack did not obtain obtain a Department of Commerce and Office of Foreign Asset Control license to export electronics. The equipment he tried shipping, according to his April 3 indictment, "could make a significant contribution to the military potential of other nations" and "could be detrimental to the foreign policy or national security of the United States."
Shippers of the equipment and items like it must notify the Department of Commerce of the names and addresses of all those involved in the transaction, the descriptions, quantities and value of the items being shipped, and the identity of the party taking possession of the merchandise, as well as the country of destination, according to the indictment.
In his April interview with FlKeysNews.com, Singer said he has made several trips to Cuba before his merchandise was seized by Customs in last year. He said he "dropped it off" with a person he knows there, but he did not name that person. Singer also said he did not make money from the shipments and delivered the equipment "for the support of the Cuban people."
Singer said he makes his living from a motorcycle shop he said he owns in Los Angeles. Several of his trips to Cuba were to bring U.S. members of the Latin American Motorcycle Association there to take part in events with Cuban members of the club "to bring riders together."
Follow David Goodhue at @DavidGoodhue