Professor, wife arrested as spies for Cuba
U.S. officials on Monday accused a Florida university professor and his wife of acting as Cuban spies for more than two decades — sending Fidel Castro's intelligence agency encrypted reports about American officials, FBI agents and anti-Castro groups, and attempting to recruit Cuban-Americans as agents.
Los Angeles Times
MIAMI — U.S. officials on Monday accused a Florida university professor and his wife of acting as Cuban spies for more than two decades — sending Fidel Castro's intelligence agency encrypted reports about American officials, FBI agents and anti-Castro groups, and attempting to recruit Cuban-Americans as agents.
In an indictment unsealed in federal court, Carlos Alvarez, 61, and Elsa Alvarez, 55, were charged with acting as agents of a foreign power without registering with the U.S. government, as is required by law. If convicted, each could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined $250,000.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea Simonton ordered the couple, who both work at Florida International University, held without bond. Prosecutors warned that they might try to flee to Cuba, their birthplace, if released. Neither defendant entered a plea, and they were due back in court Jan. 19.
The Alvarezes were not charged with the more serious offense of espionage. FBI agents said there was no evidence that the couple had provided classified or defense-related information to Cuba.
But "whenever information is transmitted by spies to the government of Cuba, that clearly endangers the United States," said U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta.
According to federal prosecutors, the Alvarezes — who were arrested Friday at their South Miami home — used the code names "David" and "Deborah" to communicate with Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence, the communist island nation's espionage agency.
Prosecutors said the couple sent information via short-wave radio, using an encryption system furnished by their spymasters. They also allegedly carried messages to and from Cuba in secret briefcase compartments.
In statements that prosecutors said were tantamount to a confession, Alvarez reportedly acknowledged working for the Cubans since 1977, and his wife since 1982. They began their alleged spying activities separately, before they married in 1980, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian K. Frazier.
Alvarez holds a doctorate in clinical psychology. He is identified on the university's Web site as a specialist in conflict resolution and the construction of ethnic identities.
His wife, a clinical social worker, is a part-time coordinator of Florida International University's social work training program, specializing in psychological treatment, crisis intervention and group psychotherapy.
Many of the Alvarezes' colleagues said Monday that word of the charges left them stunned.
"I'm totally baffled," said Uva de Aragon, associate director of FIU's Cuban Research Institute, who called Alvarez a close colleague and friend. "He is the last person I could think of doing anything like this. We talked about politics, of course, but he was not active politically in any kind of group or petition."
University president Modesto A. Maidique considers himself and Alvarez to be "longtime friends," said university spokesman Mark Riordan.
Maidique attended Monday's bail hearing to contend that his friend of 25 years, as well as his wife, were not flight risks, Riordan said.
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