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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

U.S. Claims State Dept. Official Was Cuban Spy

WASHINGTON (CN) - Federal prosecutors unsealed a 9-year-old indictment that charged a State Department employee with conspiring to spy for Cuba.

Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, was accused in February 2004 with recruiting Ana Belen Montes, a high-ranking State Department official, to funnel Top Secret information on U.S. Cuban policy to the Cuban Intelligence Service while the two worked for the State Department's Agency for International Development (AID).

Velazquez fled the United States in 2002 after learning that Montes had been exposed as a spy and arrested, the U.S. Attorney General's Office said in a statement. Velazquez is living in Stockholm.

Velazquez, who was born in Puerto Rico, is a Princeton University graduate and holds a law degree from Georgetown University and a mater's degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, according to the indictment.

She joined the AID as a legal officer, and was granted Top Secret security clearance.

"The indictment alleges that, beginning in or about 1983, Velazquez conspired with others to transmit to the Cuban government and its agents documents and information relating to the U.S. national defense, with the intent that they would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of the Cuban government," Acting Assistant Attorney General Ronald Machen Jr. said in the statement.

According to the indictment, Velazquez and Montes, who were friends, went to Spain together for a vacation in 1985. There they obtained fake passports and new clothes and secretly traveled to Cuba via Prague to receive training in spy craft.

The indictment states: "In or about early April 1985, while clandestinely in Cuba, defendant Velazquez, with Montes, received Cuban Intelligence Service training, including instruction in receiving encrypted High Frequency radio broadcast messages of the Cuban Intelligence Service, and in operational security.

"In or about early April 1985, while clandestinely in Cuba, defendant Velazquez, with Montes, asked the Cuban Intelligence Service to give them 'practice' polygraphs so that they would be able to pass polygraphs they might have to take in connection with future United States government employment."

Cuba gave Velasquez the code name Barbara and sent her back to Spain.

The indictment states that Velasquez and Montes "publicly broke off their relationship" in 1988, but both continued to pass along sensitive U.S. intelligence to Cuba for more than a decade.

In 1994, Montes told Cuban officials the identity of a covert U.S. intelligence officer and the planning and goals of the U.S. intelligence community for Cuba while Velasquez continued to receive secret communiqués from Cuban intelligence officers, prosecutors said.

"In or about June 2002, after press reports announced that Montes had pled guilty to conspiring to commit espionage on behalf of the Cuban Intelligence Service, and had agreed to cooperate with the United States government, defendant Velazquez resigned from her United States government employment and since has remained continuously outside of the United States," the indictment states.

Montes is serving a 25-year prison sentence. If arrested and convicted, Velasquez could face life in prison for helping Montes get her job as an intelligence officer with AID.

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