Last week a federal grand jury in Illinois indicted Bilal Ahmed on charges that he attempted to export a FLIR HRC-U thermal imaging camera, classified as ECCN 6A003.b.4.b, to Pakistan without the required license from the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”).

Reading the criminal complaint, which is the most detailed statement of facts in the case, reveals a few somewhat strange holes in the government’s case. Basically, the only evidence that the government has that Bilal Ahmed exported or even attempted to export anything was a box that they searched at a UPS store addressed to a company in Pakistan that had an invoice for the camera and, apparently, nothing else.

The complaint starts by describing the negotiations between Ahmed and a used-goods seller to buy an HRC-series thermal imaging camera. After payment was made, the camera was shipped to the address of Ahmed’s company Trexim Corporation, in Schaumburg, Illinois. Federal agents then followed Ahmed from his home in Bolingbrook, Illinois, to a FedEx office in Bolingbrook, Illinois. The complaint does not indicate what, whether a box or a letter or anything else, Ahmed took the FedEx store and there is absolutely no indication of what he might have shipped from there. Going to a FedEx store can hardly constitute evidence of an illegal export

Subsequently Ahmed contacted the seller and indicated that he had received the camera, that it was in bad condition, and that he wanted a case for it. An agreement was made to send him the case. The case was shipped to Schaumburg and agents then followed Ahmed again, this time from his office in Schaumburg to a UPS store in Elk Grove village. After Ahmed left, the agents inspected the contents of the box, which was addressed to Pakistan and labeled NLR, and found an invoice for the HRC camera. No other contents of the box were mentioned in the criminal complaint beyond the invoice. If the camera case was in there, you would think that the criminal complaint would, perhaps, mention it since it would be the only solid evidence that the camera, for which the case would have been destined, had been shipped to Pakistan.

So, you may wonder, where is the camera or any evidence that it was exported? The agents apparently failed to inspect the package at the Bolingbrook FedEx, and when they did get around to looking at the box at the Elk Grove Village UPS all they found of any interest was an invoice. That is apparently why Ahmed is charged only with attempted export, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of any attempted export of the camera either. I guess the idea is that sending the invoice alone was an attempted export, a far-fetched notion at best.