30 smuggled Cubans found at Key Largo
The Miami Herald.
Published Monday, September 3, 2001
Thirty Cuban migrants, including a 1-year-old girl and seven other children,
spent nearly 10 hours in the mangroves near John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
in Key Largo before being found and ferried to the mainland Sunday.
The 16 men, six women, five girls and three boys were spotted about 8:50
a.m. by Department of Environmental Protection officials and turned over to the
Border Patrol. They all appeared to be in good health, said Assistant Chief
Patrol Agent Norbert Gómez.
They told agents that they arrived in a 30-foot boat and paid a smuggler, a
Cuban who returned to the island with the boat, $8,000 a person for the journey.
But Gómez said the price may have been discounted for families or
made flexible for others who had less.
Couple accused of reporting to two Cuban spies
An indictment says George and Marisol Gari tried to gain access to CANF
mail and Southern Command.
Herald Staff Report. Published Sunday, September 2, 2001
Alleged Cuban spies George and Marisol Gari, known in their
intelligence-gathering cell as Luis and Margot, reported to at least two of the
five spies convicted in June, U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis said Saturday.
The FBI, meanwhile, said the low-profile couple arrested in Orlando on
Friday also reported at times to alleged fugitive spy Ricardo Villareal, also
known as Hector. "He is probably in Cuba,'' said Judy Orihuela, spokeswoman
for the FBI in Miami.
A federal indictment -- born out of the ongoing crackdown against La Red
Avispa, or The Wasp Network, Cuban spy organization -- accuses the couple of
trying to gain access to mail going to the Cuban American National Foundation
and attempting to infiltrate Miami-Dade County's Southern Command.
The couple lived and worked in Miami for eight years until they moved to
Orlando 18 months ago. Sometimes, they would travel to New York, where they
would pass information to Cuban spy leaders and pick up money, authorities say.
Receiving information from the couple while they were in Miami, Lewis said,
were Ramón Labañino, code-named Alan, and Fernando González,
aka Oscar. They were convicted in June along with ringleader Gerardo Hernández,
René González and Antonio Guerrero. The five convicted spies are
being held at the federal detention center in Miami while they await sentencing.
"There was a connection to the five [convicted spies]'' Lewis said. "For
part of their careers, the Garis were handled by 'Alan' and 'Oscar.' ''
Lewis said the code names of these suspects -- including those of the Garis
-- were sometimes mentioned during the spy trial, or their activities were
described in documents introduced as evidence.
Lewis said there is increasing evidence that La Red Avispa was much more
than an unsophisticated ragtag network of informants. "I've continued to
say our arrests are ongoing,'' Lewis said. "Frankly, I do expect the
arrests of additional individuals.''
The FBI and other U.S. organizations have been monitoring the activities of
Cuban spy suspects for more than 30 years. The United States, however, made only
occasional arrests until the Clinton administration decided to crack down
following the killings of four Miamians aboard two Brothers to the Rescue
aircraft shot down by Cuban MiGs in February 1996.
The first arrests -- 14 people in the La Red Avispa case, including the five
convicted spies and five more who quickly pleaded guilty and began cooperating
with the FBI -- came in September 1998. Gerardo Hernández was found
guilty of conspiring with Havana to commit murder in connection with the
"I am glad the United States is finally acting to put behind bars these
spies who have hurt Cuban exile groups for many years,'' said José
Basulto, leader of Brothers to the Rescue, who managed to avoid being shot down.
He calls the crackdown "definitely a political decision by the Clinton
administration, and now the GOP is doing the same.''
Basulto said Havana's Radio Progreso -- broadcasting at 890 AM -- has been
stepping up its denunciation of the spy arrests in nightly round-table
broadcasts starting at 6 p.m., but has not yet mentioned the Garis.
The Havana government has been organizing nationwide protests against the
conviction and jailing of the five spies, who it insists were doing nothing more
than defending Cuba against terrorism.
The Red Avispa probe also caused the expulsion of three Cuban diplomats who
the United States believes were involved in the spying and the fingering of two
other diplomats who had already left the United States. Four more alleged spies
were indicted but are fugitives.
The activities of Cuban diplomats accredited to the United Nations in New
York and to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., are constantly
scrutinized by the FBI. Three years ago, a high State Department official said
all but one of the 40 diplomats at the U.N. mission were engaged in spying,
together with the 20 to 30 members of the support staff.
"This one [La Red Avispa] was designed in a typical cell fashion,''
Lewis said. Leading each cell grouping of spies were intelligence officers like
Fernando González and Labañino. George Gari allegedly was a
mid-level manager, in charge of lesser spies. To preserve the internal security
of the network, officers did not know who the other cell leaders were handling.
Lewis said the officers, in turn, reported directly to officials of the
Cuban Ministry of the Interior, which has several branches dealing with both
internal and overseas espionage. They sent encrypted data gathered by individual
spies to Havana by e-mail or in high-frequency radio messages.
Lewis said some of this material passed through Cuba's U.S. mission.
"I can't say it always was the U.N. [mission], but often it was,''
Lewis said. "The Cubans have an incredibly advanced intelligence operation,
but they also use the typical dead drop [drop box] stuff.''
Couple belonged to Cuba spy ring, FBI says
Husband, wife are arrested in Orlando
By Gail Epstein Nieves, Lesley Clark and Sara Olkon.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Published Saturday, September 1, 2001
A husband and wife who lived in Miami for about eight years were arrested in
Orlando on Friday and charged with being part of a now-dismantled Cuban spy ring
-- the latest salvo against Fidel Castro's foreign espionage apparatus on U.S.
A federal indictment accuses George Gari, 41, and Marisol Gari, 42, of being
agents for the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence who assisted in two primary
goals: trying to infiltrate West Miami-Dade's Southern Command headquarters and
to penetrate the inner circles of the Cuban American National Foundation, a
prominent Cuban exile group.
The couple allegedly belonged to Cuba's La Red Avispa, or Wasp Network,
which the FBI busted in September 1998. Five high-ranking intelligence agents
from the group were convicted on federal spying-related charges in June. Those
men are awaiting sentencing.
The investigation of the spy ring may lead to even more arrests, law
enforcement officials said.
"We have indicated this investigation is ongoing, and we're going to
follow every single lead we can and bring to justice every single person we can
based on the evidence and the law,'' U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis said.
Héctor Pesquera, special agent in charge of the FBI in Miami, said
the case was not brought sooner because the Garis were not as high a priority as
the earlier defendants and there was little chance of their leaving the country.
But neither was the couple at the bottom of the ring's hierarchy. Assistant
U.S. Attorney David Buckner, who will prosecute the case, said George Gari was a
"midlevel agent'' with management power over other agents.
Defense attorneys for the convicted spies said Friday they were not
impressed with the government's latest effort. They said some information in the
new indictment was disclosed to them more than two years ago for their trial,
which also focused on spy attempts to infiltrate the Southern Command and Cuban
"This is a dinky little indictment, said Paul McKenna, lawyer for
Gerardo Hernández, a ringleader.
"It sounds like more of the same: people who talked about infiltrating
military installations but who never did it, and who, in fact, focused on exile
groups,'' said William Norris, lawyer for Ramón Labañino.
Officials said George Gari was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but moved with his
family to Cuba as a child. His wife was born in Cuba. The pair received several
years of training in weapons, explosives, encryption and surveillance techniques
before moving to the Miami area about 10 years ago, officials said.
George Gari, Miami-Dade records show, was a registered Republican.
The couple moved to Orlando within the last 18 months. They have an older
daughter and two school-age children who apparently were taken in by relatives
following the arrests, officials said.
The former manager of the Hialeah apartment building where the couple first
lived said George Gari moved into the building because his late grandmother,
Gloria Rodriguez, had lived there for many years.
Gari was a supervisor at a window and door company.
The former manager, Alberto, who asked that his last name not be used, said
he and his wife baby-sat for the couple. The Garis never discussed politics, he
said, and blended in with other families.
The Garis brought their children by to visit about a year ago and said their
oldest daughter was in the Army, said Alberto
"I feel really bad; I didn't expect this,'' his wife Antonia said. "It's
like they were family.''
In May 1995, the indictment states, the couple checked out security measures
at the Cuban American National Foundation headquarters.
Among the couple's specific targets, Lewis said: Roberto Martín Pérez,
a former Cuban political prisoner and Foundation director who is married to
radio commentator Ninoska Pérez, former spokeswoman for the Foundation.
Lewis said the agents sought to build a store of information on Martín
Pérez similar to that the network gathered on other community and
"They want to know what kind of car you're driving. Where do you go?
Where do you eat? Who do you associate with? What are your phone numbers? This
is the kind of information they would seek to obtain and exploit,'' he said.
Martín Pérez was out of town Friday. Ninoska Pérez said
neither she nor her husband had ever heard of the Gari family but said that if
they saw pictures, they might recognize them.
"This does not surprise me,'' she said. "We always said the Wasp
Network had many more members than those initially detained.''
Lewis said Marisol Gari used her job at the U.S. Postal Service's Miami
International Airport distribution center to try to gain access to
More recently, George Gari worked at Lockheed-Martin in Orlando as a machine
tester from January to March of this year.
He was fired after the FBI told Lockheed he was under investigation,
Pesquera said, though Gari was not believed to pose a security risk at work.
According to the indictment, the Garis managed another agent named Gabriel
in his bid to get a job at the Southern Command, which oversees American
military operations in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The indictment charges the Garis -- who went by the code names Luis and
Margot -- of being unregistered foreign agents as part of a conspiracy from 1991
The couple would travel to New York, where they'd pass information to Cuban
spy leaders and pick up money, Lewis said.
On Friday, the Garis made their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate
James G. Glazebrook in Orlando. Both were expressionless as the judge appointed
lawyers to represent them. Another hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Orlando.
In court, assistant U.S. attorney Greg Miller said George Gari had tried to
get a job at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
Neighbors at the Doral Springs apartments, where the couple moved from
Hialeah, said their children were named Georgie and Marisol, after their
parents. One neighbor said an older girl who she believed to be another daughter
also lived with them. Public records indicate a Surama Gari, now 20, lived there
In Orlando, Marisol Gari was working as a cashier at a gas station,
according to a teenager who said she was George Gari's niece. The girl would not
give her name.
Last November, the Garis moved to an apartment near Universal Studios, the
niece said. Little Georgie recently began playing Little League baseball, she
"They're very honest, very hardworking people,'' the niece said. "Their
life revolved around the family and, you know, trying to pay the bills.''
Staff writers Alfonso Chardy and Andres Viglucci contributed to this
Copyright 2001 Miami Herald