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
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 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