Attorneys say Eric Baird is ‘pleased that these matters have come to a complete conclusion.’
SARASOTA — Area businessman and entrepreneur Eric Baird, after a years-long federal investigation into alleged violations of U.S. export control laws, has been placed on two years probation, per terms of a plea agreement.
Government officials have also agreed to early termination of the probation, say Baird’s attorneys, in a statement. The settlement included a $10 million fine, which Baird paid, add the attorneys, Ronald Hanes, of Trombley & Hanes in Tampa, and John Darden of Paul Hastings LLP in Washington D.C. “This is a large amount of money to pay, particularly for an individual,” the attorneys say in the statement. “But it was worth it to Mr. Baird to help bring this matter to a close.”
Baird’s criminal plea was accepted by a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida Dec. 12, according to a previous statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa. The Bureau of Industry and Security issued an order outlining the administrative violations and imposing civil penalties of $17 million, with $7 million suspended, and a five-year denial of export privileges, of which one year is suspended, the release added.
The case involves a shipping company Baird founded in 1997, MyUS.com. The company, in the mid-2000s, was one of the fastest-growing businesses in the region, going from $5 million in revenues in 2004, for example, to $65 million in 2012, up %1,200. Baird sold the company to Palm Beach Capital in September 2012. He is also one of the owners of downtown Sarasota's 8.6-acre Main Plaza mall, along with Jesse Biter and David Chessler.
The government’s investigation of MyUS started six years ago with a high-profile raid on the company’s facility, says the letter from Hanes and Darden. “At that time, the government was investigating some particularly sensational allegations of wrongdoing at MyUS, none of which were included in Mr. Baird’s plea agreement,” the letter adds.
Bard, in the administrative settlement, “acknowledged that during a portion of the time he was running MyUS, 166 items were shipped improperly,” his attorneys say.
“The terms of that settlement do not allow Mr. Baird to deny the government’s allegations as to why those 166 shipments were improper,” the letter states. “During that relevant time period, the company had more than 25,000 items flowing through the warehouse every day, and by 2013 that number was up to 42,000 items per day. That means that over 7,500,000 items flowed through the warehouse during the period covered by the administrative settlement involving 166 items.”
The plea agreement, the attorneys say, further states that while Baird “admitted that certain electronic government forms required for a very limited number of shipments had not been filed or had been filed incorrectly,” the number of shipments in the investigation “was a small fraction of the company’s total business during the relevant time, considering the millions of items that were handled by the company.”
Adds the statement: “With today’s proceedings, Mr. Baird is pleased that these matters have come to a complete conclusion.”