The Associated Press - The Sun-Sentinel.com - February 28, 2007
MIAMI - A college professor who pleaded guilty in a federal case involving allegations that he and his wife spied for Cuba's communist government and betrayed their fellow Cuban-American exiles by passing along information about community figures was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison.
Carlos Alvarez, 61, and his 56-year-old wife Elsa were sentenced by District Judge K. Michael Moore on reduced charges they received in a federal plea deal. Carlos Alvarez, a Florida International University psychology professor, also received three years probation.
Elsa Alvarez was sentenced to three years in prison and one year of probation. That was the maximum sentence both could get under sentencing guidelines.
The case involved accusations of exchanging coded messages with Cuban intelligence services about Cuban-American exile groups and prominent figures in Miami. Both Alvarezes apologized and took responsibility during the sentencing hearing. They said they were not communists or supporters of Castro, and were just trying to establish open dialogue with Cuba, where both were born before coming to the United States. Several family members and friends offered emotional testimony on behalf of the couple's character.
The government had asked for a 21-month sentence for Elsa Alvarez, but Moore exceeded that recommendation.
"As we know, a good motive is never an excuse for criminal conduct," Moore said before sentencing. "Their behavior undermined U.S. foreign policy."
In December, Carlos Alvarez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to become an unregistered foreign agent, while his wife admitted knowing about her husband's illegal activities but failing to report them to authorities. Both were charged previously with the more serious charge of acting as illegal Cuban agents.
Carlos Alvarez already has served nearly 14 months in a federal detention facility. His wife had served five months in the federal facility before being released on bond.
In 2005, Carlos Alvarez admitted in FBI interviews to being a "collaborator" with Cuba's intelligence service beginning in 1977, insisting he was mainly interested in opening dialogue with Cuba. His attorneys unsuccessfully tried to have that confession thrown out.