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Mexican Citizen Accused of Spying for Russians in the U.S.

Mexican Citizen Accused of Spying for Russians in the U.S.

Federal officials have arrested a Mexican citizen for allegedly acting on behalf of a Russian agent who recruited him to collect information about the U.S. government and met repeatedly with him in Moscow.

Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes and his wife were about to board a plane back to their native Mexico from Miami on Sunday, when a customs official asked to inspect their phones.

The official looked in a file of recently deleted images on the phone of Mr. Fuentes’s wife, and found a close-up photograph of a license plate. The plate belonged to the vehicle of a U.S. government source, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Mr. Fuentes admitted to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection that he had told his wife, who was not named in the statement, to take the picture.

It turned out, federal prosecutors said, that Mr. Fuentes was acting on behalf of a Russian government official who had recruited him in 2019 to rent property in Miami-Dade County and gather information.

“The Russian official told Fuentes not to rent the apartment in Fuentes’s own name and not to tell his family about their meetings,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice. Mr. Fuentes met with the Russian official twice in Moscow, it said.

During the second meeting this month, the official gave Mr. Fuentes a physical description of a U.S. government source’s vehicle.

The Russian official “told Fuentes to locate the car, obtain the source’s vehicle license plate number, and note the physical location of the source’s vehicle,” according to the statement.

The two were supposed to meet again around April or May so that Mr. Fuentes could give him the information, officials said in the statement.

Federal officials said Mr. Fuentes and his wife rented a car, and on Friday they followed the U.S. source home.

A security guard on the premises became suspicious of the couple because the rental car had tailgated another vehicle to get inside the building complex.

As the guard approached Mr. Fuentes, his wife got out of the car and snapped a photo of the government source’s vehicle, federal officials said.

The guard asked the couple what they were doing there, and Mr. Fuentes said they were visiting someone at the building.

“Security did not recognize the person as living there and told Fuentes to leave the premises,” federal officials said.

When Mr. Fuentes was questioned about the photo two days later at the airport, he admitted he had been directed by a Russian government official to conduct the operation, the officials said.

Mr. Fuentes has been charged with acting on behalf of a foreign agent without notifying the attorney general. He has also been charged with conspiracy to act on behalf of a foreign agent.

At a hearing in Miami federal court on Tuesday, Mr. Fuentes said he had a variety of jobs, including one as a researcher at the National University of Singapore, where he earned $7,500 a month, according to The Miami Herald.

Mr. Fuentes also told a magistrate judge he earned $5,000 a month from an Israeli company based in Germany and had about $100,000 in bank accounts in Mexico, Singapore and the United States, according to the newspaper.

Mr. Fuentes is listed on the National University of Singapore website as one of the lead researchers of a 2016 study on cardiovascular disease.

He will be arraigned on March 3 in Miami federal court, federal officials said.

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