Former US Ambassador admits to spying for Communist Cuba for ‘four decades’, gets max sentence

Victor Manuel Rocha, a 73-year-old former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia and member of the National Security Council, pleaded guilty on Friday to having acted as a spy for the Communist Republic of Cuba for decades.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Security Division called Rocha’s actions a “staggering betrayal.”

“Today’s plea and sentencing brings to an end more than four decades of betrayal and deceit by the defendant,” Olsen said, according to a news release from the DOJ. “Rocha admitted to acting as an agent of the Cuban government at the same time he held numerous positions of trust in the U.S. government, a staggering betrayal of the American people and an acknowledgment that every oath he took to the United States was a lie.”

As BizPac Review previously reported, Rocha first began working as a spy for Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence in 1981, around the same time he also began working in the U.S. State Department.

A resident of Miami, Florida, Rocha is “a former U.S. Department of State employee who served on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995 and as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002,” the DOJ reports.

“Victor Manuel Rocha secretly acted for decades as an agent of a hostile foreign power,” said U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida. “He thought the story of his covert mission for Cuba would never be told because he had the intelligence, knowledge, and discipline to never to be detected.”

“Rocha underestimated those same skills in the prosecutors and law enforcement agents who worked tirelessly to bring him to justice for betraying his oath to this country,” Lapointe added.

The attorney acknowledged the pain Rocha has brought to the Sunshine State.

“I am mindful that Rocha’s decades-long criminal activity on behalf of the Cuban Government is especially painful for many in South Florida,” Lapointe said. “Rocha’s willingness to cooperate, as required by his plea agreement, is important, but does not change the seriousness of his misconduct or his clandestine breach of the trust placed in him.”

Immediately following his plea, “a federal judge sentenced Rocha to the statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for his crimes of conviction,” according to the DOJ.

“Rocha’s 15-year prison sentence, the maximum punishment for his crimes of conviction, sends a powerful message to those who are acting or seek to act unlawfully in the United States for a foreign government: we will seek you out anywhere, at any time, and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” Lapointe vowed.

“U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom accepted Rocha’s guilty plea to counts 1 and 2 of the indictment, which charged him with conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government and conspiring to defraud the United States and acting as an agent of a foreign government without notice as required by law,” the DOJ reports.”

In addition to 15 years behind bars, Rocha was handed a $500,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a special assessment.

“The court also imposed significant restrictions on Rocha,” according to the DOJ. “Under the terms of the parties’ plea agreement, Rocha must cooperate with the United States, including assisting with any damage assessment related to his work on behalf of the Republic of Cuba.”

“Rocha must relinquish all future retirement benefits, including pension payments, owed to him by the United States based upon his former State Department employment,” the DOJ continued. “Rocha must also assign to the United States any profits that he may be entitled to receive in connection with any publication relating to his criminal conduct or his U.S. Government service.”

The Justice Department detailed Rocha’s admissions:

In pleading guilty, Rocha admitted that, beginning in 1973, and continuing to the time of his arrest, he secretly supported the Republic of Cuba and its clandestine intelligence-gathering mission against the United States by serving as a covert agent of Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence.

By his own admission, to further that role, Rocha obtained employment at the U.S. Department of State, where he worked between 1981 and 2002, in positions that provided him access to nonpublic information, including classified information, and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy. Aside from serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia and on the White House National Security Council, Rocha’s career included a stint as Deputy Principal Secretary of the State Department’s U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba from 1995-97. After his State Department employment ended, Rocha engaged in other acts intended to support Cuba’s intelligence services.

Rocha kept his status as a Cuban agent secret to protect himself and others and to allow himself the opportunity to engage in additional clandestine activity. Rocha provided false and misleading information to the United States to maintain his secret mission and traveled outside the United States to meet with Cuban intelligence operatives.

 

While unwittingly speaking to an undercover FBI agent “posing as a covert Cuban General Directorate of Intelligence representative,” Rocha “behaved as a Cuban agent, consistently referring to the United States as “the enemy,” and using the term “we” to describe himself and Cuba.”

“Rocha described his work as a Cuban agent as ‘enormous … More than a grand slam,’ and asserted that what he did ‘strengthened the Revolution … immensely,'” according to the DOJ.

“The investigation of this crime demonstrates the sustained threat from hostile intelligence services,” said Assistant Director for Domestic Operations Andrew Wroblewski of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). “Today’s guilty plea and sentencing are another example of our commitment to successfully work together with our federal law enforcement partners in the pursuit of those who compromise the security of the United States.”

Melissa Fine

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