His second wife, Olga de la Cruz Llera, was among the 68 people killed in the Nov. 4, 2010, crash in Cuba of a passenger plane. Alvarez escaped the island in the last week of 2010 and settled in Tampa, where his daughter Lisette had been living since 2004.
And thats when the many mysteries surrounding the former Alimport chief began to sprout.
Alvarez has claimed that the FBI detained him for several weeks while it pushed him to spill whatever valuable information he had about Cuba, but he told them nothing, a friend in Tampa told El Nuevo Herald.
A knowledgeable U.S. government official said Alvarez in fact did cooperate with the FBI reluctantly, but in the end OK. The official and the Tampa friend both asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about Alvarez.
Tampa lawyer and anti-Castro activist Ralph E. Fernandez said that one day after he publicly complained on Feb. 12, 2011, about Alvarezs until-then secret presence in Tampa, a senior FBI official in the city urged him to lay off the case.
FBI Tampa spokesman Dave Couvertier would not comment on whether the bureau detained, debriefed or paid money to Alvarez in exchange for information. The U.S. official said the defector was paid not much at all, just pocket change.
But in October of 2011, Alvarez began an involvement in a string of at least eight purchases and sales of modest Tampa homes, often obtained from banks, whose value totals $598,000, Hillsborough County property records show.
He flipped at least three for an apparent profit of $154,000, though it is not clear how much he might have spent on renovations. One home he bought for $40,000 went to his sister, Rosario Alvarez Borrego, for $100 and he still owns four, according to the records.
Fernandez said he is certain Alvarez launched his real estate deals with money he somehow stashed away during his time with Alimport. Cuban government salaries average $20 a month, and the two types of Cuban pesos are not legal tender outside the island.
Without question he did not arrive here like my parents, with $5 in their pockets. He did not come like the rafters, with their skins burned and nothing else, Fernandez said. He came with access to a large source of money. It could be legal or illegal. I am not going to speculate. But he did not come with $5.
Alvarezs real estate deals appear in Hillsborough County records under several names: Pedro Alvarez; Pedro Borrego; Rosario Alvarez; Wise Management Group Corp.; and Arenas Blancas Investment owned by daughter Lisette.
Rosario Alvarez, who left Cuba around 2005, told El Nuevo Herald her brother does not often visit her West Laurel Street home but agreed to let him know the newspaper wanted to interview him. She declined further comment, and he did not acknowledge the message.
Her son, who declined to give his name, said Alvarez is quiet, is working, is studying and asked the journalists to leave the property without giving further details on his uncles activities.
Alvarez founded Wise Management, which accounted for at least two of the real estate deals, in March of last year with him as president and Tampa resident Roxana Bello as vice president. She did not return messages left at a telephone number listed for her.
His daughter, Lisette Alvarez, who apparently arrived in the United States in 2004, told El Nuevo that she was not close to her father because she was outside the system of government in Cuba while he was totally inside it.