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Marta Rita Velazquez is charged with conspiracy to commit espionage

An indictment alleges that the former legal officer for USAID helped recruit Cuban spies

She resigned and has lived outside the United States since 2002, the Justice Department says

CNN  — 

A former U.S. federal employee helped recruit Cuban spies, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

A grand jury indictment alleges that Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, a former legal officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development, received orders from the Cuban Intelligence Service, helped pass documents about U.S. defense to Havana and helped a spy for Cuba obtain a position in the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

“Beginning in or about 1983, Velazquez conspired with others to transmit to the Cuban government and its agents documents and information relating to the U.S. national defense, with the intent that they would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of the Cuban government,” the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement announcing that the indictment had been unsealed.

Velazquez, who was born in Puerto Rico, resigned from her USAID post in 2002 and has lived outside the United States since then, the Justice Department said. She currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden, the statement said.

Officials said Velazquez’s indictment is connected to the case of Ana Belen Montes, a former senior U.S. intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty to spying for the Cuban government in 2002. Montes, 55, is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Montes and Velazquez studied together at Johns Hopkins University in the 1980s and forged a strong friendship, the Justice Department said, “with both sharing similar views of U.S. policies in Nicaragua at the time.”

The indictment alleges that Velazquez helped a Cuban intelligence officer recruit Montes in 1984 and “accompanied Montes on a clandestine trip to Cuba for Montes to receive spy craft training” the next year.

In 1985, according to the indictment, Velazquez helped Montes get a job as an analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

A grand jury returned the indictment against Velazquez in 2004, the Justice Department said.

Velazquez is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit espionage. If convicted, she faces a possible sentence of life in prison.