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CEO Can't Escape Jail after Trading with Iran, 11th Holds

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 09, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Georgia CEO will not escape his jail sentence after being found guilty of violating the U.S. trade embargo on Iran, the Eleventh Circuit held today. Mark Alexander, who manufactured and sold industrial machines, had been found guilty of trading with Iranian businesses.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and currently forbids virtually all trade with the country. At trial, Alexander claimed the government case against him was a "scam" and that he had been pressured to sell the goods by colleagues.

Goods Were Hardly Nuclear Weapons, but Still Forbidden

Alexander was CEO of Hyrdajet Technology, a Georgia-based manufacturer of waterjet cutting systems, which use high pressure water streams to slice through materials like buttah, without the friction of surface-to-surface cutting. Alexander was also CEO of Hydrajet Mena, out of Dubai. Mena sold Hydrajet machines to customers in the middle east, including several Iranian companies. Whoopsies.

After being tipped off by one of Alexander's partners, federal agents arrested the CEO and he was convicted of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which prohibited trade with Iran.

Jurors, Please Ignore that Angry Mob

"Alexander's supporters," as the district judge characterized them, had allegedly surrounded a juror's car, refusing to let her move. She was upset and had informed the rest of the jury of the incident. Alexander objected to the traffic-jammers being described as his supporters and moved for a mistrial, which the judge denied.

The acts of the "rude people," and the subsequent refusal to grant a mistrial, did not violate Alexander's right to a fair trial, the Eleventh ruled. Alexander could not show that the contact was about his trial and he conceded that the incident may have been "a complete misunderstanding." Where there was no colorable showing of extrinsic influence, the court was not required to investigate further, let alone declare a mistrial.

Fugitive's Testimony Would not have Helped Anyway

On appeal, Alexander claimed that the district court had wrongly refused to permit a deposition of one of Alexander's codefendants, a fugitive hiding in Iran. There was no error in excluding the testimony, the Eleventh Circuit found, as it was immaterial or cumulative. Much of it, such as that Alexander did not want to sell to Iran, would have been hearsay and inadmissible anyway.

Alexander must now serve a jail sentence of 18 months.

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