As he stood in Miami federal court, Hector Cabrera Fuentes didn’t exactly look like an “international man of mystery.”
But Cabrera, a short and stocky Mexican citizen, was charged Tuesday with being an “unregistered foreign agent” for Russia. He is accused of spying on at least one U.S. informant in South Florida, though court filings provided only sketchy details of the allegations.
In a brief hearing, Cabrera, 35, did reveal that he had bank accounts and jobs in different parts of the world. He told a magistrate judge that he was making $7,500 a month as a researcher at the National University of Singapore and another $5,000 a month from a part-time job with an Israeli company in Germany, along with holding about $100,000 in bank accounts in Mexico, Singapore, and the United States.
“None of my family knows I’m here,” Cabrera said, explaining to Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley that it would be difficult to gain access to his money outside the United States to pay for a defense attorney. She assigned a temporary public defender to represent Cabrera, who faces pretrial detention because prosecutor Michael Thakur said he is a flight risk.
Cabrera was arrested Monday by FBI agents after he was stopped the previous day at Miami International Airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers who inspected his cellphone before his scheduled departure for Mexico on Sunday.
According to a criminal affidavit, Cabrera arrived with his Mexican wife last Thursday, rented a Chrysler sedan and drove directly to a Miami-area condominium complex.
The affidavit says Cabrera visited the complex to spy on a resident at the “direction” of an agent with the Russian Intelligence Service, which operates under President Vladimir Putin. It turned out that the resident was an informant for the FBI’s counterintelligence division who provides information on Russian spying activities in South Florida. Before he was asked to leave the complex, Cabrera’s wife took a photo of the federal informant’s car and license plate.
Cabrera, who was visiting Miami on a business and tourism visa, told FBI agents during questioning Monday that he had met with the Russian intelligence agent in Russia several times over the past year and that he instructed him to rent a unit at the condo complex in Miami to do surveillance on the FBI informant. His cellphone showed that there had been interaction between Cabrera and his Russian handler, according to the affidavit.
Cabrera also told the FBI agents that he had a second wife, who is Russian with two daughters. He said he met with them on his trips to Russia while he met with the Putin government’s intelligence agent.
The agent instructed Cabrera not to tell his Russian wife that he was meeting with him. He also promised Cabrera that he would help the Russian wife and her daughters get out of Russia.
“We can help each other,” the Russian agent told Cabrera.
The Mazatlan Post