Hearings before administrative law judges (ALJ) for alleged unlicensed travel to Cuba continue
This week, Judge Irwin Schroeder, an administrative law judge (ALJ) who is commissioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to hear Cuba travel cases, heard testimony in two cases of individuals who allegedly traveled to Cuba without a license.
In the first case, the defendant, Jennifer Kennelly, purchased a ticket for travel to Cuba through Travelocity, an online travel provider. Consistent with OFAC guidelines, travel agencies must obtain a license to provide travel services to Cuba; Travelocity did not have such a license. According to Michael Neufeld of OFAC, Travelocity and American Airlines had glitches in their systems that allowed individuals to purchase tickets to Cuba.
As Craig Ostrem, a Cuba traveler who had a hearing for alleged unlicensed travel in October 2004, testified, one relies on a travel agency in good faith to make travel arrangements in the same manner one does not confirm a plane is properly equipped before taking flight.
Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) argued Kennelly lost the ability to sue Travelocity for negligence, and her first lawyers for malpractice, because the three-year statute of limitations had passed while OFAC inexcusably waited to appoint judges. He also argued for mitigation due to serious medical conditions that have prevented her from working for the last three years.
In another case, also heard by judge Schroeder, the defendant, David Heslop, allegedly traveled to Cuba from Charlotte, North Carolina via Cancun. On his return, he was stopped by U.S. Customs at the Charlotte airport under suspicion of travel to Cuba. Heslop was referred for a secondary inspection and was pressured to complete a document detailing his travel to Cuba including information regarding money spent.
During the hearing we learned from the former U.S. Customs Agent who testified in this case, that compliance in completing the form during the inspection is not required. Prior to Heslop’s fulfillment with the Customs Agent’s request, the only information the government had about his trip was suspicion of travel based on stamps in his passport that resembled entrance stamps used by Cuban officials.
Both Heslop and Kennelly were represented by Kadidal of the CCR. CCR recommends individuals under investigation for travel to Cuba should assert their 5th Amendment right to remain silent.