Tags: US | Mexico | Spy Case

Scientist Nabbed for Russia Spying Is Mexico Hometown Hero

Wednesday, 19 February 2020 01:38 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexican scientist charged with spying for Russia in Miami is considered a benefactor in his native state of Oaxaca state, the mayor of his hometown said Tuesday.

Mayor Hazael Matus said scientist Hector Alejandro Cabrera has helped set up science projects in his hometown of El Espinal and had been considered a contender for a Nobel Prize in medicine; Cabrera was known for his work on cardiac treatments, and was hoping to produce an ointment to help heal wounds in diabetics in his home state.

"It is very strange for this to happen because he is a very altruistic person with a lot of social conscience. He helped people and all this seems strange," Matus said. “We don't know what happened, but I bet it is a confusion or an attack for scientific reasons. He may have discovered something that upset some people or some business interests.”

U.S. authorities said Tuesday that Cabrera had been 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. The U.S. government source, who might be better described as an informant, was not identified.

It was also unclear why a Mexican scientist based in Singapore might have been chosen for such a mission.

Cabrera 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.

Matus, the mayor, described Cabrera as a hometown boy who made good, going to Russia to study his graduate degrees.

But he said Cabrera never forgot his hometown of 9,500 inhabitants, and helped organize the scientific community to assist in rebuilding houses in El Espinal after a magnitude 8.1 quake hit on Sept. 7, 2017, and a 6.1 temblor struck two weeks later. The town has a large Zapotec indigenous community.

Cabrera had been scheduled to attend meetings in Mexico on Monday about a series of research centers that he was helping establish in El Espinal as part of the government's huge Trans-Isthmus development project, which is meant to upgrade rail links between the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico through Mexico's narrow Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The $430 million project is one of the infrastructure priorities of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Cabrera was a leading promoter of El Espinal's role in the project, helping recruit Mexican universities and government agencies to set up research centers on medicine, seismology, logistics and other topics there.

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

Cabrera 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 Cabrera 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 Cabrera, having traveled from Mexico City to Miami on Feb. 13, 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 Cabrera then photographed the source’s vehicle and license plate, the Justice Department said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped Fuentes and his companion when they appeared at Miami’s airport Sunday night to return to Mexico City. Cabrera admitted to law enforcement officers that he was directed by a Russian government official to conduct the operation, the Justice Department said.

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A Mexican scientist charged with spying for Russia in Miami is considered a benefactor in his native state of Oaxaca state, the mayor of his hometown said Tuesday.Mayor Hazael Matus said scientist Hector Alejandro Cabrera has helped set up science projects in his hometown...
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2020-38-19
Wednesday, 19 February 2020 01:38 PM
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