Tue Feb 27, 6:47 PM ET
MIAMI (AFP) - A US judge Tuesday sentenced a professor in Miami to five
years in prison for being a covert agent for Cuba's government, and his
wife to three years for failing to report the illegal activities.
The Cuban-American couple had pleaded guilty to the charges.
Judge Michael Moore sentenced Carlos Alvarez, a former Florida
International University (FIU) professor, to five years in prison and
three years of probation, in line with the prosecution's recommendation
for a tough sentence.
Elsa Alvarez, who also was an FIU staffer, was sentenced to three years
in jail and one year of probation, even though the prosecution had
requested only 21 months.
The defense argued that Carlos Alvarez opposed communism and
Fidel Castro's regime, but hoped that by sharing information he would
promote dialogue between Cubans in exile and on the communist-run island.
But the judge insisted that "good motive is never an excuse for criminal
Lawyers for the couple told the court in Miami the information
transmitted to Cuba was little more than gossip and publicly available
information, and included no secret, classified or defense material.
But the prosecution insisted it was unclear how much damage they may
have done as only a fraction of the information they transmitted to Cuba
could be retrieved.
Carlos Alvarez was charged with conspiring to act as an agent of a
foreign government for working for Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence
(DI) and its predecessor agencies since 1977.
His wife also allegedly worked as a covert agent from 1982, but because
she apparently stopped those activities in the 1990s, she was sentenced
only for failing to report her husband's activities.
The defendants gathered information for the DI in the United States,
informing on groups and individuals who oppose Cuban President Fidel
Castro, "and carrying out other operational directives," the indictment
The two allegedly operated under the codenames David and Deborah to work
under a shroud of secrecy while pretending to be upstanding US citizens,
the prosecution claimed.
Before he was sentenced, Carlos Alvarez told the court he had once
belonged to an underground movement that sought to topple Castro's
regime by force, but later became "an advocate of dialogue."
"I decided to engage in a relation that would require sharing what I
consider innocuous information and analysis for access," he said.
"The method and channel that I used were unforturnately wrong," said
Carlos Alvarez, who was described in testimony by friends and colleagues
as a devout Roman Catholic, a loyal American citizen, a hard-working
teacher and a man of integrity.
Defense attorney Steve Chaykin told the court Carlos Alvarez had only
transmitted information "readily available in the public domain."
But prosecutor Matthew Axelrod said that "the truth is that for nearly
30 years the defendant acted as a covert agent for the Cuban government
and by doing so he caused incalculable harm to this country and his
"This is not idle chit-chat. Mr. Alvarez was tasked by Cuban
intelligence to collect information," said Axelrod, adding that this was
"classic intelligence work."
He said information retrieved from a computer at the Alvarez home
contained only a fraction of the information provided to Cuba. He said
"sensitive details" recovered from the computer showed Alvarez had
written reports on the business ventures of the FIU's president, and
discussed a "redacted" version of a US report on telecommunications in Cuba.