* Gross was sentenced to 15 years in jail by Cuba
* Gross says he was used as a "pawn" of U.S. policy
By David Adams
MIAMI, Nov 16 A U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba
after being convicted of crimes against the state sued the U.S.
government and the company that hired him for $60 million on
Friday, blaming them for his imprisonment and not warning him
about the risks he faced in the communist-run island.
Alan Gross, 63, has been jailed in Cuba since Dec. 3, 2009,
and is serving a 15-year sentence for providing Internet gear to
Cubans under a U.S. program that Cuba views as subversive.
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington,
Gross and his wife, Judy Gross, allege that his employer,
Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc, or DAI, and the
U.S. government "failed to disclose adequately to Mr. Gross,
both before and after he began traveling to Cuba, the material
risks that he faced due to his participation in the project."
The suit also charges that DAI and the government "failed to
take adequate measures" to train and protect Gross on his trips
to Cuba, and that they "ignored Mr. Gross' repeated security
concerns so that DAI could continue to generate significant
revenue and the Government could continue to use Mr. Gross as a
pawn in its overall Cuba policy initiatives."
In a separate lawsuit against New Jersey-based Federal
Insurance Co in Maryland District Court, Gross and his wife said
FIS "has wrongfully refused benefits," under what the suit cited
as "a wrongful detention" clause.
The Department of Justice did not respond to the lawsuit on
Friday. "The case is being reviewed," said spokesman Charles
A spokesman for DAI said it was preparing a statement to be
issued later on Friday. Federal Insurance Co, part of the Chubb
insurance group, could not be reached for comment.
Gross, a development worker, went to Cuba five times as a
subcontractor for DAI, which had a contract with the U.S. Agency
for International Development.
He has said he went to Cuba only to help the island's Jewish
community, not for political purposes, and was working on a U.S.
government project intended to increase the availability of
Internet access for the Cuban-Jewish community.
The U.S. government has said Gross should not be jailed for
providing Internet access to Jews and has repeatedly demanded
The case has put a hold on U.S.-Cuba relations that warmed
slightly after President Barack Obama took office in January
Since his detention, Gross' wife said he had lost 100 pounds
(45 kg), was battling chronic arthritis pain and had what could
be a cancerous tumor beneath his shoulder blade. Gross' daughter
and elderly mother both have cancer.
"The tragedy faced by the Gross family is horrific," said l
Scott Gilbert, lead counsel of Gilbert LLP.
"What is mind-boggling is that this never should have come
to pass. The destruction of this family is the direct result of
a project approved, overseen and administered by DAI and our
government that was flawed from conception and pursued with
complete disregard for Mr. Gross' safety and well-being. It is
an utter disgrace."
Gross was working in Cuba for a U.S.-funded program to
promote political change by increasing Internet access and the
flow of communications. Cuba views such programs as part of
long-standing U.S. attempts to topple the island's communist
USAID has said that Gross' job was "simply facilitating
Internet connectivity to the Cuban people so they could
communicate with the rest of the world."
Cuba says Gross tried to keep his work undercover and was
aware of its political aims, according to a leaked court
The court said it found evidence on flash drives and a
computer confiscated during his arrest that Gross knew more than
he admitted and took action to avoid detection, including using
American tourists to bring Internet equipment to Cuba without
telling them what it was for.
The gear included three satellite Internet terminals, or
BGANs, along with BlackBerry phones, iPods and other
Information is tightly controlled on the Caribbean island,
Internet use is limited and visitors are not allowed to carry
During his trial, Gross said: "I did nothing in Cuba that is
not done on a daily basis in millions of homes and offices
around the world. ... I am deeply sorry for being a trusting
fool. I was duped, I was used."
(Editing by Peter Cooney)