MIAMI — A prominent Mexican scientist who led a double life with two families on different continents and was co-opted by Russian agents to supervise a US government informant in Miami has been sentenced to four years and one day in federal prison.
According to court documents, Hector Cabrera Fuentes, 36, was sentenced Tuesday in Miami federal court. He pleaded guilty in February to acting in the US on behalf of a foreign government without notifying the US Attorney General.
Cabrera was arrested at Miami International Airport in 2020 when he and his Mexican wife — the other is from Russia — were searching for their home in Mexico City. The day before, on Valentine’s Day, the couple caught the attention of a security guard when they were caught on surveillance tape catching another vehicle on the property of a condominium near Miami and snapping a photo of the car and the license plate number of the US source – disregarding instructions do not take pictures, just note the location of the vehicle.
The bizarre story of Cabrera’s failed intelligence mission began in 2019 when his Russian wife and her two daughters traveled from Germany to Russia to settle a bureaucratic matter. When the woman tried to return to Germany, she was not allowed to leave, an FBI agent said in an affidavit accompanying the original indictment.
Cabrera then traveled to Russia to see his family and was reportedly approached by a Russian official he had met in a professional capacity years earlier. The person, who is not identified in court records, advised Cabrera that his family should not travel to Europe or apply for a US visa.
Around this time, Cabrera began to believe the person was working for the Russian intelligence agency FSB, according to the FBI.
Later, at a subsequent meeting in Moscow, the same official produced old emails from Cabrera’s account in which the Mexican scientist was looking for real estate in Miami.
The Russian official brought up Cabrera’s family situation and told him, “We can help each other,” according to the original indictment.
At the official’s direction, Cabrera traveled to Miami and, using an employee’s name, rented an apartment in the same complex where the US government source lived.
It’s not clear whether the scientist knew why the Russians wanted him to rent the apartment. Still, often intelligence agencies try to isolate themselves by recruiting other people to perform various tasks. Rarely does the recruit has full knowledge of the entire mission.
The person who chased Cabrera is not named in court documents and is only described as a “confidential human source” of the US government which has previously provided information about Russian intelligence activities that harm US national security interests.
Before his arrest, Cabrera worked in Singapore as an associate professor at a medical school jointly by Duke University and the National University of Singapore.
He was also appointed director of the FEMSA Biotechnology Center at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in northern Mexico in 2018. He credits himself with a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology in Russia and molecular cardiology in Germany.
In his hometown of El Espinal, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Cabrera is a local hero, known for his work promoting scientific research, healing diabetes patients, and helping rebuild homes after devastating earthquakes.