Unsealed Indictment Charges Former U.S. Federal Employee with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage for Cuba: Defendant Allegedly Helped Cuban Intelligence Service Recuit and Insert Spy into U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency
(FBI) WASHINGTON—A one-count indictment was unsealed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, with conspiracy to commit espionage, announced John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
The charges against Velazquez stem from, among other things:
- Her alleged role in introducing Ana Belen Montes, now 55, to the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) in 1984
- In facilitating Montes’s recruitment by the CuIS
- In helping Montes later gain employment at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
Montes served as an intelligence analyst at DIA from September 1985 until she was arrested for espionage by FBI agents on September 21, 2001.
On March 19, 2002, Montes pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of Cuba. Montes is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.
The indictment against Velazquez, who is also known as “Marta Rita Kviele” and as “Barbara,” was originally returned by a grand jury in the District of Columbia on February 5, 2004.
It has remained under court seal until today. Velazquez has continuously remained outside the United States since 2002.
She is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. If convicted of the charges against her, Velazquez faces a potential sentence of up to life in prison.
According to the indictment, Velazquez was born in Puerto Rico in 1957. She graduated from Princeton University in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Latin American studies.
Velazquez later obtained a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1982 and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., in 1984.
Velazquez later served as an attorney advisor at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and, in 1989, she joined the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as a legal officer with responsibilities encompassing Central America.
During her tenure at USAID, Velazquez held a top secret security clearance and was posted to the U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
In June 2002, Velazquez resigned from USAID following press reports that Montes had pleaded guilty to espionage and was cooperating with the U.S. government. Velazquez has remained outside the United States since 2002.
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.
As part of the conspiracy, Velazquez allegedly helped the CuIS spot, assess, and recruit U.S. citizens who occupied sensitive national security positions or had the potential of occupying such positions in the future to serve as Cuban agents.
For example, the indictment alleges that, while Velazquez was a student with Montes at SAIS in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s, Velazquez fostered a strong, personal friendship with Montes, with both sharing similar views of U.S. policies in Nicaragua at the time.
In December 1984, the indictment alleges, Velazquez introduced Montes in New York City to a Cuban intelligence officer who identified himself as an official of the Cuban Mission to the United States.
The intelligence officer then recruited Montes. In 1985, after Montes’ recruitment, Velazquez personally accompanied Montes on a clandestine trip to Cuba for Montes to receive spy craft training from CuIS.
Later in 1985, Velazquez allegedly helped Montes obtain employment as an intelligence analyst at the DIA, where Montes had access to classified national defense information and served as an agent of the CuIS until her arrest in 2001.
During her tenure at the DIA, Montes disclosed the identities of U.S. intelligence officers and provided other classified national defense information to the CuIS.
During this timeframe, Velazquez allegedly continued to serve the CuIS, receiving instructions from the CuIS through encrypted, high-frequency broadcasts from her handlers and through meetings with handlers outside the United States.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the DIA. It is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Clifford Rones of the Counterespionage Section in the Justice Department’s National Security Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney G. Michael Harvey of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
The charges contained in an indictment are merely allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Woman indicted in Cuba spy case is in Sweden and out of U.S. reach (Washington Post)
The Justice Department on Thursday announced the indictment of a former State Department employee for allegedly spying on behalf of Cuba, but it is unable to arrest her because she lives in Sweden, a country that does not extradite citizens accused of espionage.
Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, a graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown University Law School, was indicted nearly a decade ago on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. Velazquez lives in Stockholm and is aware of the charges against her, the Justice Department said. But the extradition treaty between the United States and Sweden does not allow extradition for spying. . . .
. . . .Velazquez went on to work for the U.S. government, too, first at the Transportation Department and then for 13 years as a legal officer with the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development. During her tenure with USAID, Velazquez held a top secret security clearance and was posted to U.S. embassies in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
She exchanged encrypted messages with Cuban operatives while at USAID, the indictment states, and traveled to Panama for an operational meeting. She resigned from USAID in June 2002, after Montes’s arrest but months before Montes pleaded guilty to espionage and began cooperating with law enforcement officials. . .
Charge against former State Department employee in spy case (Miami Herald)
Velazquez ’79 accused of espionage against US government (Daily Princeton)
US spy suspect wife of Swedish ministry insider (The Local – Sweden)
The Stockholm woman charged in the US with conspiracy to commit espionage for Cuba is married to a Swedish foreign ministry official, Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Utrikesdepartementet) confirmed on Friday. The woman, a former State Department employee now living in Sweden, was charged on Thursday, and news of her husband’s identity surfaced on Friday. The acts of espionage were carried out while the two were married.
Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Charlotta Ozaki Macías confirmed that the ministry had been aware of the case for years. “The Foreign Ministry official with a connection to the case is not guilty of criminal activity,” she told the TT news agency. The Swedish man remains in service at the ministry. . . .
Justice Department accuses U.S. citizen of being Cuban spy (Los Angeles Times)