L.A. Sheriff’s Department Given Pass on Export Law Violations

Posted by at 9:07 pm on February 13, 2013
Category: Arms ExportCriminal Penalties

LA Sheriff's CarAccording to this investigative report that appeared in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department apparently committed criminal export violations over 10 years ago when it shipped body armor without a license to Cambodia. Surprisingly (or maybe not), federal investigators gave the department and the individuals involved a pass.

What makes the case particularly interesting are the steps that the Sheriff’s Department took to conceal the export. The bulletproof vests were, at least on paper, allegedly sold to the City of Gardena, California. However, Gardena never received the vests. Instead, they were retrieved by someone in the Sheriff’s Department who, even though not an employee of the City of Gardena, signed on behalf of the city. The vests were then hidden inside patrol cars that were being shipped to Cambodia. The bulletproof vests were neither licensed or declared in export documents.

Federal investigators decided not to press charges on the ground that there was no evidence that anyone involved in the transactions were aware of the relevant export laws.  Of course, that’s not the standard. The scienter requirement is that the accused knew that the exports were against the law, not that they were aware of the particular export laws in question. Call me cynical, but if someone not in law enforcement went to these extremes to disguise what they were doing, that person would be indicted faster than you can say “ham sandwich.”


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Copyright © 2013 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)


So for once, ignorance of the law WAS an excuse, at least for law enforcement. 🙂 I wonder why Cambodia was doing buiness with the LA Sheriff’s Office.

Comment by Chris Rylands on February 14th, 2013 @ 8:53 am

This kind of double standard, is exactly the nature of what is so wrong with export-control enforcement. What has happened to all parties are equal before the law? This kind of cherry picking enforcement, or complicity when it suits them, is not only grossly unjust and hypocritical, but makes everyone involved co-conspirators.

Comment by Daniel Max Sherman on February 14th, 2013 @ 10:29 am

It’s not just municipal law enforcement, but the US Department of Defense as well. They “export” all the time without required licenses, then can’t understand when then contract with commercial exporters and freight forwarders that THEY have to worry about picky little things like the EAR and the ITAR.

Comment by Jim Dickeson on February 14th, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

Definitely set up a persuasive precedent that can be argued by defense in future export-control cases of similar cricumstances. We should start a pool on when/who that might happen.

Comment by Carol Towry on February 15th, 2013 @ 11:10 am