A member of a Russian government intelligence service coopted a Mexican researcher into spying on a confidential FBI source in Miami, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday evening in South Florida federal court.
Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes, a biotech researcher residing in Singapore, was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent in a scheme that allegedly saw the Mexican national attempt to surveil a confidential source who had “previously provided information” to the U.S. government about Russian intelligence activities “implicating national security interests.”
Fuentes allegedly tailgated another car into the condo where the informant lived on Sunday, making it past an automated gate, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint.
A security guard noticed what Fuentes had done and approached his car. But, as the guard walked over, Fuentes’s wife got out of the car and took a picture of the informant’s vehicle and license plate.
Border Patrol agents purportedly intercepted Fuentes and his wife the next day, as they attempted to leave the U.S. for Mexico out of Miami International Airport. Border Patrol found an image of the informant’s car in the “recently deleted” folder of Fuentes’s wife’s phone, as well as an extensive WhatsApp conversation between Fuentes and an unnamed Russian official.
The complaint goes on to allege that, months earlier, the Russian official extorted Fuentes into becoming a spy. Fuentes, the document says, believed that the official was a member of the FSB — Russia’s successor agency to the Soviet KGB, responsible for security.
Fuentes allegedly has a second family with a Russian wife, located in Germany.
In March 2019, the complaint reads, Fuentes’s second family took a trip to Russia. But as they tried to leave to return to Germany, prosecutors say, “Russian customs officials would not allow the family to depart Russia.”
Fuentes, whose LinkedIn profile says that he received a Master’s degree in molecular biology in 2004 from Russia’s Kazan State University, then traveled to Moscow in May 2019.
While on the trip, the unnamed Russian official contacted Fuentes, allegedly telling him that the pair had already met “through professional meetings and exchanges.”
The complaint says that Fuentes recognized the official. The two began to meet in private, and the official told Fuentes that he was aware that his family was stuck in Russia. The official also allegedly gave Fuentes “a hardcopy printout” of Fuentes’ Gmail account, showing correspondence between Fuentes and a Miami realtor from 2015.
The official then asked Fuentes to rent an apartment in Miami, purportedly directing him to the condo where the informant lived.
“We can help each other,” the complaint quotes the official as saying.
Fuentes rented an apartment at the residence under the name of an unidentified “associate.” The Mexican national then took another, final trip to Moscow in February 2020, where the Russian official gave Fuentes “a physical description” of the informant’s car.
Fuentes’s alleged Russian handler purportedly told him not to take a picture of car, and simply to note the vehicle’s license plate information and location. But Fuentes appears to have disobeyed that order, giving Border Patrol officers something to find before he left the country.
It’s not clear whether Fuentes was targeted by government agents after his interaction with the condominium guard, or whether he was identified by chance.
Read the complaint here: