Saturday, February 21, 2015

In Cuba, fugitive declines invitation to return to U.S.

In Cuba, fugitive declines invitation to return to U.S.
By Megan O'Matz
Sun Sentinel

- U.S. Marshals call fugitive in Cuba to ask him to return to Florida.
- Medicare fugitive reportedly works as a wedding DJ in Cuba.
- Among fugitives in Cuba: check forger, cocaine trafficker, and bird

U.S. marshals normally surprise fugitives by breaking down doors and
hauling people off in handcuffs. This time, federal agents took a
different tack: They called the wanted man and politely asked him to return.

"He confirmed, absolutely, I know I'm wanted in the U.S., and I'm not
coming back to the U.S. because I know I'm going to prison," Barry
Golden, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman, said of the April 2014 call to
accused alien smuggler Junior Arce de la Cruz.

Why the unusual treatment? Because Arce de la Cruz was in Cuba. The
incident underscores the difficulty of retrieving fugitives from the
Communist-led nation.

President Obama's recent move to restore official diplomatic ties with
Cuba has renewed calls for the return of fugitives, but Cuba has
asserted its right to offer political asylum to certain individuals and
has yet to return a single fugitive. The two countries do not regularly
cooperate on police matters or honor an extradition treaty signed more
than 100 years ago.

"That has to be a critical part of the discussion with the Cubans," Sen.
Marco Rubio said Friday at a news conference in West Palm Beach.

Rubio, a Florida Republican and Cuban-American, said he's stressed the
need to demand the return of fugitives with the State Department and the
U.S. diplomat leading the talks with Cuban officials.

"No one seems to have a good answer about why it isn't a higher
priority," he said. "I think it's outrageous that there are people
living in Cuba, with tens of millions of dollars they stole from the
American taxpayers, with no consequences."

Even flashy credit-card fugitive Gilberto Martinez, a music video artist
who flaunted his extravagant lifestyle on Facebook and YouTube, hasn't
been returned — despite being busted by Cuban police last month.
Authorities can be seen in online videos raiding his sprawling,
custom-built home outside Havana, yet U.S. officials still don't know
where he is or whether he'll be handed over.

Nationwide, the Marshals Service is seeking more than 500 Cuban-born
individuals whose whereabouts are unknown, the agency said in response
to a public records request.

Federal officials publicly have put the number of fugitives in Cuba at
between 100 and 130. The Sun Sentinel, in an investigation published
earlier this year of Cuban crime rings in the U.S., found references in
court files to another 50 who have found safe harbor on the island.

No exact number, exists, however, because no single state or federal
agency tracks it.

"A lot of folks come here and they take advantage of the great
opportunities this country gives them and commit crimes and steal money
and leave the jurisdiction," said Cuban-American Amos Rojas Jr., the
U.S. Marshal for the southern district of Florida. "The Marshals Service
spends a lot of resources and time tracking them down. At the end of the
day, it's up to us to bring them to justice."

His office released to the Sun Sentinel the names of seven Cuban-born
fugitives it has confirmed returned to Cuba.

They include an accused check forger, cocaine trafficker, and illegal
bird importer: low-profile cases that don't receive the level of
attention of the cop killers and airplane hijackers given refuge by the
Castro government.

"We believe there probably is a larger number of fugitives who are
wanted here in the U.S. and have fled back to their native country of
Cuba," Golden said. "It's just very hard right now to confirm that
they're actually residing in Cuba.

"A lot of times fugitives will take the long route," Golden said.
"They'll go through Mexico or another country and end up in Cuba. We
don't have a U.S. embassy in Cuba, so there's no one we can just pick up
the phone and call and run a database search for those fugitives who may
have entered the country."

Some of the Cuban-born individuals the Marshals Service hopes will one
day be returned from Cuba to

face justice include:

Angel Perez-Robles

AGE: 39

CHARGE: Credit-card fraud


Perez-Robles had served three years in a U.S. prison for smuggling
Cubans into Florida by boat in a 2003 case. He was arrested again in
December 2007, accused of conspiring with a Dadeland Mall Macy's clerk
and others to use stolen credit-card numbers to obtain clothes,
cosmetics, perfume, gift cards and other items worth more than $100,000.
Perez-Robles bonded out and by April 2008 had disappeared. Authorities
learned in 2011 that he was jailed in Cuba and was scheduled to be
released, Golden said. It's not known why he was detained there.

Robin Carlos Perez

AGE: 42

CHARGE: Possession with intent to distribute cocaine


In December 2009, the Florida Highway Patrol in Fort Lauderdale arrested
Perez and Rolando Morales-Yanes after a traffic stop of a
tractor-trailer containing about 40 kilos of cocaine. Released on bond,
the men fled the country. The U.S. Marshals Service issued a warrant in
March 2010 for their arrest. Morales-Yanes was caught in June 2010
trying to enter Canada. While on the lam, Morales-Yanes told
authorities, he went to Mexico and traveled to Cuba and Chile before
trying to enter Canada. The man said Perez was in Cuba and gave a
general location, Golden said.

Eduardo Moreno

AGE: 46

CHARGE: Health care fraud


Indicted in April 2007 for fleecing Medicare, Moreno allegedly recruited
a recent Cuban immigrant to be the front man and sign checks and other
paperwork for two fake medical equipment companies in Coral Gables and
Miami, according to court records. One office was housed in a utility
closet, containing "buckets of sand mix, road tar and a large wrench,"
an investigator found. In the span of about three months, the companies
billed Medicare more than $3.8 million and received about $77,000, court
records state. Moreno allegedly used $10,000 to pay the sales tax on a
2004 Rolls-Royce Phantom for his girlfriend. Released on bond, he fled
within the year, ending up in Havana. "It's not a secret," Golden said.
"He advertises the fact he's a DJ for hire in Cuba and caters to the
more upscale weddings."

Yamile Dominguez

AGE: 39

CHARGE: Check forgery


Postal Service inspectors arrested Dominguez in March 2011 for check
forgery in Miami. According to the indictment, which includes few
details, she passed two forged checks in February 2010. Evidence in the
case, according to another court filing, includes a phony check worth
$985, and four altered Western Union money orders totaling more than
$1,200. Released on bond, she skipped court in May 2011. In 2013,
federal agents learned that she was hiding in Cancun, Mexico, and sought
an international arrest warrant, Golden said. Before the paperwork was
approved, however, she boarded a flight to Havana and escaped capture.

Jose Angel Flores

AGE: 50

CHARGE: Smuggling exotic birds


In April 1988, after receiving a distress call, the U.S. Coast Guard
boarded a boat near the Sombrero Key Lighthouse and found 293 birds in
the cabin, including one scarlet macaw, 48 parrots, a mustached parakeet
and 190 other unidentified birds, Golden said. Officials also found a
motel receipt from Cuba and various souvenirs from the island.
Authorities charged Jose Angel Flores with wildlife smuggling. He bonded
out of jail but failed to appear at his November 1988 sentencing.
Prosecutors changed him in March 1992 with bail jumping. Two decades
later, the U.S. Marshals Service received information that he was in Cuba.

Inocente Hernandez Lores

AGE: 54

CHARGE: Marijuana trafficking


Indicted in October 1987 for marijuana distribution, Hernandez Lores
fled. In February 1988 he and three others were captured by the Cuban
Coast Guard aboard a boat, the "Mary," carrying 7,700 pounds of
marijuana, U.S. authorities learned. As of 2012, Hernandez Lores was
still believed to be in Cuba, Golden said. "At this point in time we
don't know if they're still incarcerated or their status because we
don't have any way of verifying that."

Junior Arce de la Cruz

AGE: 39

CHARGE: Alien smuggling


In August 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard watched a go-fast boat approach
Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park and drop 35 Cuban
nationals on shore, according to the criminal complaint. A grand jury
indicted Arce de la Cruz and another man for alien smuggling. Arce de la
Cruz posted bond but failed to show up for court a month later. Last
year, a family member told the marshals that he had returned to Cuba and
provided authorities with his mother's phone number in the Pinar del Rio
region. When the U.S. agents called, Arce de la Cruz answered, telling
them he'd returned to Cuba by boat. According to Golden, the marshals
tried to coerce him to return to the U.S. where he could see his
10-year-old son, serve his time, and "put this behind you." Arce de la
Cruz asked for some time to think about it. Weeks later, the marshals
obtained his cellphone number and called him back. Working in Cuba as a
cab driver, Arce de la Cruz said he feared crossing the Florida Straits
again and declined to "hop on a plane and fly back into Miami and
surrender himself," Golden said.

Because of the estrangement between the two countries, U.S. marshals
cannot simply send a plane to Cuba to pick up fugitives. "I wish it was
that easy but it's not," Golden said.

Instead, the agency waits for fugitives to make a mistake and enter the
U.S. again, or for the rare instance when Cuba does hand someone over.

Sun Sentinel reporter Sally Kestin contributed to this report.

Source: Fugitives in Cuba: commonplace criminals living there along with
cop killers and airplane hijackers. - Sun Sentinel -

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