Mexican man accused in Miami of working as Russian agent

]FEB. 18, 2020 5:40 PM

MIAMI —U.S. authorities have arrested a Mexican citizen they say was hired by a Russian government official to locate the vehicle of a U.S. government source in the Miami area and inform the Russian of its location.

A Justice Department statement issued Tuesday on the arrest of Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes did not indicate why a member of the Russian government sought such information. The U.S. government source, who might be better described as an informant, was not identified.

Fuentes was arrested and charged with acting within the United States on behalf of a foreign government – in this case, Russia – without notifying the U.S. attorney general, and conspiracy to do the same, according to the Justice Department. A pretrial detention hearing was set for Friday in U.S. magistrate court in Miami and arraignment for March 3 in the same court.

The case involved the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as an assistant attorney general for national security and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

According to the Justice Department, a Russian government official recruited Fuentes, a resident of Singapore, in 2019. The Russian official later directed Fuentes to rent a specific property in Miami-Dade County, Florida, but not in his own name, the Justice Department said.

Fuentes traveled twice to Moscow to meet with the official, the Justice Department said, and during the second meeting received a physical description of the U.S. government source’s vehicle. The Russian official told Fuentes to locate the car, obtain the source’s vehicle license plate number, and note the physical location of the source’s vehicle with the goal of providing that information in April or May.

The Justice Department said Fuentes, having traveled from Mexico City to Miami last Thursday, attracted the attention of a security guard where the U.S. government source resided because his rental car entered the premises while tailgating another vehicle. A person with Fuentes then photographed the source’s vehicle and license plate, the Justice Department said.

Customs and Border Protection stopped Fuentes and his companion when they appeared at Miami’s airport Sunday night to return to Mexico City.

Fuentes admitted to law enforcement officers that he was directed by a Russian government official to conduct the operation, the Justice Department said.