Category Archives: US Fugitives in Cuba

Grandma rips off Medicare and skips town — likely to Cuba

The Miami Herald

Dora Robaina’s résumé boasted plenty of experience working in Miami’s lucrative Medicare rackets.

She’d served two years in prison a decade ago for fraud and was facing new charges for her suspected role as a patient recruiter in another ring prosecutors say bilked millions from the government program. And before that case could even begin, she was set to spend three years behind bars for tipping off the scam’s ringleader so he could evade FBI agents who had come to arrest him at a Hialeah dental office where she worked.

But Robaina, 49, was also about to become a grandmother. So last spring, a federal judge granted her request to delay surrender so she could attend her grandson’s expected birth. She was supposed to turn herself in last June.

Instead, grandma fled — probably to Cuba. It’s long been a popular escape route for Medicare fraud fugitives. Over the past decade, dozens of defendants have sought haven on the communist island when confronted with criminal charges in Miami.

“She had an appointment with me but she never showed up,” said her defense attorney, David T. Alvarez, who obtained her bail and surrender delay with the support of the U.S. attorney’s office. “But it’s not my belief that she fled. It doesn’t make any sense because she was a minor player in the main case.”

Continue reading Grandma rips off Medicare and skips town — likely to Cuba

Will President Trump Force Cuba to Return Convicted Cop Killer Assata Shakur?

njpolice

TownHall

In the wake of dictator Fidel Castro’s death, President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to reverse President Obama’s executive order “normalizing” relations between the United States and Cuba.

When Obama issued the order in December 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asked for the return of Black Panther and convicted cop killer Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard. Shakur has been living in Cuba for three decades after killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. She was convicted of murder in 1977, escaped prison and in 1984, fled to Cuba. She is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.

“I urge you to demand the immediate return of Chesimard before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government,” Christie wrote to Obama at the time. “If, as you assert, Cuba is serious about embracing democratic principles then this action would be an essential first step.”

The Cuban government responded to Christie’s request by saying they have the right to protect politically persecuted people inside their country and refused to turn over Shakur. Obama didn’t ask for her return as part of normalization, despite requests from a number of law enforcement organizations.

Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign yet that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America’s most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral ties.

Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press that “every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted. … That’s a legitimate right.”
The question now becomes whether the return of Shakur will be included in Trump’s better deal for Americans when it comes to Cuba. It should be noted the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Cuba, making the task more difficult.

Cop killers hiding in Cuba have been reassured they will not be sent back to the U.S.

CharlieHill

Associated Press

Two American fugitives who fled to Cuba after they were accused of killing police officers said Friday that Cuban officials have assured them that detente with the United States will not lead to their extradition.

The United States and Cuba held a second round of law-enforcement talks last month dedicated partly to resolving the fate of scores of fugitives after more than a half century with almost no cooperation. The talks are part of a series of U.S.-Cuba negotiations aimed at normalizing relations after the two countries declared an official end to Cold War hostilities on Dec. 17, 2014.
The discussions have raised U.S. law enforcement hopes that fugitives living in Cuba for decades will return to the United States to face trial or serve prison under plea deals.

Charles Hill, a black militant wanted in the 1971 slaying of a New Mexico state policeman, told The Associated Press that Cuban government contacts had recently reassured him he was at no risk of extradition. Nehanda Abiodun, another black militant wanted in a 1981 armored car robbery that left two police offers and a security guard dead, told the AP she had recently received a similar promise.

Cuba is home to dozens of people wanted in the United States on charges ranging from Medicare fraud to killings committed in the name of black and Puerto Rican revolution movements in the 1970s and ’80s. Cuba has asked the United States to return a smaller number of people, including Luis Posada Carriles, the alleged mastermind of a series of terror attacks against Cuba, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed all 73 people on board.
Cuba’s head of U.S. affairs told the AP shortly after the declaration of detente that Cuba was entitled to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, a sign that people the country once saw as fellow revolutionary fighters will remain safe. The most prominent is Assata Shakur, who is on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists. She broke out of a prison where she was serving a conviction for murdering a New Jersey state trooper. She was regularly spotted in Havana after fleeing to Cuba but has not been seen here in public in recent years.

Hill said he had contacted his Cuban government handlers about three weeks ago after seeing reports that progress was being made in negotiations that could lead to his extradition.

“My people assured me that no, that’s not going to take place,” Hill said. “I said what’s the status and they said there’s no problem.

“The future is very difficult,” he said. “I don’t know, but I think the Cuban government is going to maintain their position. I feel very tranquil.”

Abiodun said Cuban agents recently told her she’s still safe on the island.

“I feel good,” she said. “I have been assured that my safety is secure.
“I am very, very thankful for their generosity, not only for me but for other comrades that have unfortunately had to leave the United States because of political oppression.”

New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said the thaw of U.S. relations with Cuba has increased his hope that Cuba will facilitate the transfer home of Americans accused of violent crimes, including Hill.

He called fleeing the country a cowardly act on Hill’s part and said that “if any country can afford him a fair trial, it is the United States.”

Kassetas said he would expect Hill to face federal charges in connection with a 1971 hijacking of a plane that brought him to Cuba, along with murder charges at the state level. Hill denies killing State Police Officer Robert Rosenbloom during a traffic stop.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said Thursday that he wants to “leverage the re-opening of relations with Cuba to finally bring Charlie Hill to justice.”

The Democratic senator for New Mexico traveled to Cuba in March with President Barack Obama and said he met with Cuban officials to discuss the possibility of returning Hill to the United States. He said the case was brought up during two past dialogues on law enforcement issues.

“I have heard reports that Charlie Hill wants to return to the United States,” Udall said in an email. “And I would encourage him and his attorney to work with law enforcement and the United States government to facilitate the transfer.”

Hill’s lawyer, Jason Flores-Williams, said Hill was confident about his client’s ability to stay in Cuba but the new era of U.S.-Cuba normalization had created some uncertainty.

“With the normalization of relations we have concerns that the U.S. may be, as they have in the past in Latin America, using monetary leverage to try to get in so that they can appease the law-and-order forces in America currently via the extradition of Mr. Hill,” he said.

A spokesman for the FBI in Albuquerque declined to comment on Hill and prospects for his return.

Obama could agree to trade Cuban spy for a convicted cop killer hiding in Cuba

anabelenmontes

NBC News

Cuba and the United States are discussing possible exchanges of prisoners, including the release of a woman considered one of the most damaging spies in recent history, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The discussions, said to be in their early stages, are part of efforts by the two countries toward normalization of diplomatic relations.

Among the names floated by Cuban leaders, officials say, is Ana Montes, convicted in 2002 of spying for the Cuban government for nearly two decades while working for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

Her espionage compromised many aspects of America’s efforts to spy on Cuba, “calling into question the reliability of all U.S. intelligence collected against Cuba,” according to Michelle Van Cleave, a former national counterintelligence executive.

While at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Montes became the top Cuban analyst. Investigators said she memorized classified information on the job, typed it on a laptop computer in the evenings at her apartment, stored it in coded form on disks, and passed the information to her Cuban handlers.

Montes was sentenced to 25 years in prison and is due to be released in 2023.

For their part, American officials say the U.S. is interested in getting back Americans who sought refuge in Cuba from U.S. prosecution.

“Cuba has been a haven for U.S. fugitives,” said one federal law enforcement official.

Among those U.S. officials would like back is Joanne Chesimard, who escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 where she was serving a life sentence for killing a state trooper by shooting him with his own gun at a traffic stop.

The State Department declined to discuss specifics. But a spokesman said, “The United States continues to seek the return from Cuba of fugitives from U.S. justice. The Department repeatedly raises fugitive cases with the Cuban government and will continue to do so at every appropriate opportunity.”

“I don’t think the idea of a prisoner exchange is surprising,” author David Wise, who has written several books about espionage cases, said. “We’ve swapped with the Russians since the early days of the Cold War. It’s by no means unprecedented.”