CUBA

Miami man who broke Cuba embargo is sentenced to 12 months

 

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Pedro Adriano Borges was a no-show for a Miami trial in 1997 on charges of selling goods to Cuba in violation of the U.S. embargo. He had fled to Costa Rica two years earlier, ironically hinting that he was joining the anti-Castro struggle.

The 68-year-old Borges will be leaving Miami for Costa Rica again in coming months — this time without the feds on his tail — after completing his sentences in U.S. federal court for conspiracy to violate the embargo and his parole violation.

Borges, who apparently got a break because of his age, was sentenced last week to 12 months on the embargo charge — six months in prison and six in home detention, plus a $1,000 fine — and four months for his parole violation. Arrested in November, he is expected to be released from prison soon.

The Cuba-born Borges and four other men were indicted in 1997 on charges of sending 18 shipping containers from Miami to Cuba from 1993 to 1996, via third countries. They carried $93,000 worth of foodstuffs, light bulbs, diapers and other goods.

Three of the defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 18 months each, including Javier Ferreiro Parga, a Spanish businessman living in Havana who was the importer of the goods. A fourth elected to go to trial and was acquitted.

Borges could have been sent to jail for 35 years — 10 for violating the Trading With the Enemy Act and other embargo laws, 20 for helping to launder the money that Cuba paid for the goods and five for conspiracy to launder money.

He had just finished serving a 39-month prison sentence in New Jersey on a separate money-laundering charge — but still had three years of parole to serve — when he moved to Miami in 1993. He went to work at Central Trading International, the export-import company at the heart of the embargo violations.

Borges received permission on July 31, 1995 for a 21-day business trip to Costa Rica but never returned to the United States, according to documents in his court case. Instead, he faxed his Cuban-American parole officer a string of excuses for his absence.

One fax claimed he was helping Cubans “to win their liberty,” hinting that he was somehow involved in anti-Castro activities but giving no details. A second message essentially told the parole officer “see ya in Havana,” the court documents show.

Borges is expected to return to Costa Rica after completing his home detention. He has a wife and property worth $1.2 million in the Central American nation, as well as Costa Rican citizenship, according to court records.

It’s not known what he did in Costa Rica from 1995 to 2012, but he apparently requested a U.S. passport last year at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica or Panama. The passport was denied, but the request may have triggered an alert to law enforcement.

He was arrested in Panama in November and immediately deported to South Florida.

The 1997 indictment named Borges in six of the 28 counts alleging the five accused shipped the containers with documents showing they were going to the Caribbean island of Curacao. They were diverted to Havana when they reached the ports of Rio Haina in the Dominican Republic and Progreso in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, according to the court documents.

The U.S. Congress changed the embargo regulations in 2002 to allow U.S. exports of agricultural products to Cuba, from chicken wings to 40-foot telephone poles. They hit a record $711 million in 2008, and dropped to less than $200 million last year amid Cuba’s economic crisis.

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