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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Unlicensed travel to Cuba court cases - Travelocity sells tickets to Cuba

Posted June 28, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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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.

Member Comments

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On June 28, 2005, yumaguy wrote:

I don’t understand why these blockade busters don’t take the proper precautions. This Heslop guy wasn’t too smart when it came to handling his return. The whole point of going thru Mexico or Canada is so that you can use your birth cert. and driver’ license as ID when returning to the US. Some paranoid people even mail their passports back to themselves from the “gateway” city. These “no passport required” rules are still in effect through 2007. Come 2008, it’ a different story. You have until 2006 if you go through a Caribbean country with this “method.”

I believe Cuban immigration doesn’t stamp US passports anymore, although it’ always smart to ask them not to. I think they don’t even stamp those that are non-US for the most part, since a Cuba stamp can cause hassle in the future should the foreigner ever visit the US.

Even without the stamp though, cuba travellers should still try not to reenter the US with their passport. The passport # alone can give US immigration info on what recent flights you were on. That’ why mules always try to use their BC & DL, or so I’ve been told.

Also, from what I could tell from this news clipping, it looks like US Customs got a little scary with the guy. You have to realize, coming back in, they usually don’t have enough evidence to process & fine you, so they play mind games and intimidate you into squealing on yourself. I thought that was only done in police states like Cuba!  wink  You should never be forced to admit anything, you have that right. Better to say: “With all due respect sir, I’m not prepared to answer that question at this point.”  The customs guy will be pissed as hell, and will definitely check your luggage very carefully, but they’re more likely to let you go, assuming you’re not loaded with obvious Cuban souvenirs.  grin