Former US ambassador accused of spying for Cuba says he'll plead guilty to charges

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A former U.S. diplomat accused of spying for Cuba for over 40 years said he will plead guilty to charges the Department of Justice (DOJ) brought against him in December 2023.

Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, told Judge Beth Bloom on Thursday that he would change his plea, indicating he is prepared to plead guilty to two counts, according to The New York Times. 

The DOJ charged Rocha in December for working as a covert agent for Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence since 1981, the same year he started working at the State Department. 

He was accused of using access to classified information and foreign policy to assist Cuba. He faced counts of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government and using a passport obtained via a false statement. 

Prosecutors are expected to drop the wire fraud charge, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years, according to The Times. Rocha pleaded not guilty earlier in February to the initial charges filed against him by the DOJ. 

Jacqueline Arango, Rocha’s lawyer, hinted that a deal might be on the table between her client and prosecutors Thursday, according to The Associated Press, but neither she nor prosecutors provided further details. Rocha is expected to appear in court April 12 for his sentencing.  

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in December that Rocha performed one of the “longest-lasting infiltrations” of the U.S. by a foreign agent. 

“Those who have the privilege of serving in the government of the United States are given an enormous amount of trust by the public we serve,” Garland said. “To betray that trust by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”

Rocha allegedly revealed his ties with Cuba during meetings with an undercover FBI agent in 2022 and 2023, in which he called the U.S. an “enemy.” The former diplomat hails from Columbia and became a U.S. citizen in 1978.

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