Ins Veteran Gets 5 years;

Mariano Faget Sentenced for Aiding Suspected Cuban Espionage Agent

Madeline Baro Diaz - Sun-Sentinel - Saturday South Broward Edition - June 30, 2001

Mariano Faget, a high-level immigration official convicted of giving information to an alleged Cuban spy, was sentenced to five years in prison on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold pronounced sentence after a tearful plea from Faget's wife, who was flanked in the courtroom by more than 20 family members and friends.

Maria Faget, who burst into tears during her remarks, described her husband as "the must humble person who has ever walked the Earth."

"He is also a very naive person and because he is naive, he has been incarcerated for 16 months," she said. "He loyally served the U.S. government for 35 years and it took them one day to take it all away."

Faget has admitted disclosing secret information to his friend, media mogul Pedro Font, but said it was a lapse in judgment, not an attempt to hurt the United States or help Cuba.

In May 2000, Faget was convicted of espionage, converting government records to his own use, failing to disclose foreign business contacts when applying for a security clearance, and lying to the head of the FBI in Miami.

Prosecutors had asked for at least 10 years, but Gold took into consideration the fact that much of the information Faget passed on had been made up by the FBI as part of a sting operation.

He sentenced him to 60 months per count, to be served concurrently.

Noting that Faget had lost his government pension, Gold did not fine him, but imposed a "special assessment" of $400 -- $100 per count. His attorneys are expected to appeal.

At the defense's request, the judge recommended Faget serve his time at the minimum security federal prison in Coleman in Central Florida.

Afterward, both sides said they were "pleased" with the sentence.

"This is a very fair and very significant conviction today," said lead prosecutor Richard Gregorie.

"We had encouraged Mr. Faget to hope for a 60-month sentence, believing that such a sentence would be very fair and measured," said Ben Kuehne, one of Faget's attorneys, who added that Faget was "deeply apologetic" for breaking the law.

Because Faget has been at the Federal Detention Center since his arrest in February 2000, he will only have to serve another 44 months.

Although Faget was convicted of passing information to someone with alleged ties to Fidel Castro's government, his father was Cuba's chief communist hunter under former leader Fulgencio Batista.

When Fidel Castro's forces overthrew Batista in 1959, Faget and his family were among the first to flee Cuba.

Faget, 55, spent 35 years with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and had a spotless record. But FBI agents became suspicious of him in 1999 when they saw him having a drink with Luis Molina, a Cuban diplomat they considered a spy.

A year later, the FBI caught Faget in the sting operation. Miami's FBI chief told Faget that Molina was planning to defect, which was not true.

Faget was later videotaped calling Font to tell him about the defection. Font was about to have lunch with Molina's replacement Jose Imperatori, and that meeting was also caught on tape by the FBI.

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence of business deals Faget and Font were planning for Cuba. Prosecutors said that the men's corporation, America- Cuba, intended to circumvent the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba or its officers at least hoped to curry favor with Cuban officials who might sign their contracts.

Font was never charged. Imperatori, who succeeded Molina when he returned to Cuba in 1999, was expelled from the United States last year.

On Friday, the Cuban government held a rally in Havana in support of five Cuban agents convicted in U.S. federal court earlier this month. Castro has called the men heroes.

U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis mentioned those convictions on Friday in discussing the Faget case. He said both cases showed that " espionage will not be tolerated here in the Southern District of Florida."

  • The Cuba Spy page