An alleged accomplice in a major spy case involving Cuba helped recruit a friend and colleague Ana Belen Montes to spy for the Cuban Intelligence Service against the United States, the Justice Department said Thursday.
Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, once a legal officer at the State Department’s Agency for International Development, is accused of conspiracy to commit espionage by introducing Montes to a Cuban intelligence officer in 1984 and then helping her get a job at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where Montes engaged in espionage.
Montes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage in 2002, and is serving a 25-year sentence in a high-security prison.
The charge connects Velazquez to a highly damaging spy case. During the 16 years Montes was a U.S. intelligence analyst for the DIA, she revealed the identities of four undercover agents to Cuban officials and provided classified defense information to Cuban intelligence.
The indictment against Velasquez was originally returned by a grand jury in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 5, 2004, but remained under court seal until Thursday. Velazquez has remained outside the United States since 2002, when she resigned her USAID job after Montes pleaded guilty. She is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden, according to the Justice Department.
If convicted of the charges, Velasquez, who is also known as “Marta Rita Kviele” and as “Barbara,” would face up to life in prison.
An extradition treaty between the United States and Sweden does not allow extradition for political offenses, a category that includes espionage, prompting the government to finally unseal the 9-year-old indictment because it has been unable to gain Velasquez’s return.
There was no answer after midnight at a telephone number listed on the Internet for a Marta Rita Velazquez in Stockholm.
According to the indictment, Velasquez introduced Montes to a Cuban intelligence officer attached to the Cuban Mission to the United States in December 1984 in New York City. The intelligence officer recruited Montes, and the two women traveled to Cuba clandestinely in 1985 so Montes could receive spy-craft training, the indictment alleges.
Shortly after that, the indictment alleges, Velazquez helped Montes get her job at the Defense Intelligence Agency. While there, Montes had access to classified national defense information until her arrest in 2001.
While Montes worked at DIA, the indictment charges, Velazquez continued to receive encrypted high-frequency broadcasts from her Cuban handlers and met with them outside the United States. Her job was allegedly to help Cuban intelligence spot and recruit U.S. citizens who occupied sensitive national security positions or had the potential to do so.
Velasquez joined USAID in 1989 as a legal officer for Central America and had a Top-Secret-security clearance, the Justice Department said. Velasquez served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Born in Puerto Rico, Velasquez graduated from Princeton University in 1979, obtained a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington in 1984.
Velazquez was a student together with Montes at the Johns Hopkins facility, located in Washington, in the early 1980s. The indictment said both women had similar views on U.S. policy toward Nicaragua at the time and they became friends.
Miami Herald Staff Writer Mimi Whitefield contributed to this report