John Pacenti's federal courts report for Nov. 15

Daily Business Review

With the release of Skyfall, the newest James Bond movie hitting theaters, John has the perfect spy story from the courts: The story of how one Cuban exile says she was seduced by a Cuban spy and is now looking to the courts to help her collect $27 million.

He was the spy who wooed.

Cuban agent Juan Pablo Roque was so committed to the Communist cause, he infiltrated Miami’s exile community by romancing and marrying Ana Margarita Martinez. Then, shortly before the Cuban air force shot down unarmed planes operated by an exile group out of Miami, he fled to his homeland.

Martinez sued the Cuban government and won a $27.1 million judgment against the Communist nation in Miami-Dade Circuit Court in March 2001. Now, with no money forthcoming, her lawyer filed a notice of the award with the federal court in Miami more than 11 years later. A federal judge immediately filed an administrative order closing the case because not all parties associated with it were listed.

Roque wanted to gain access to information on Brothers to the Rescue, an exile group that operated in the mid-1990s to help the U.S. Coast Guard spot waterborne refugees in the Florida Straits.

Roque ended up joining the group and flew numerous missions. The day after Roque disappeared from South Florida in February 1996, two Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down by the Cuban Air Force. It was later learned Roque was back in Cuba.

Roque got to South Florida by swimming, according to him, to the shores of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, Cuba. He came to Miami in March 1992 and two months later met Martinez, a single mother of two the time, at a church function. They dated and married.

An intercepted message between Roque and his Cuban handler — they would meet at a McDonald’s restaurant — mentions how the spy begged to return to the homeland before the sham wedding because he feared his girlfriend in Cuba would not be happy. He remained married to Martinez for four years.

In her lawsuit, Martinez claimed sexual battery, arguing that she had carnal relations with someone who had pretended to be her husband. Roque one day disappeared, deserting his wife and her children to return to Cuba.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami in 1998 indicted the fugitive Roque in absentia as part of a ring of Cuban spies who operated in South Florida

Martinez’s attorney, Rhonda Anne Anderson, on Oct. 22 filed in federal court the 2001 judgment entered by then Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alan L. Postman.

“The plaintiff was an unwilling pawn used by Roque to establish a creditable cover for his

covert espionage activities on behalf of the Cuban government,” Postman wrote more than a decade ago.

“This case is about the family he devastated and the woman he sexually battered, through

his fraud, resulting in her having severe permanent psychological injuries.”
Cuba did not defend the lawsuit at the time, asserting it was not subject to U.S. laws. Postman, though, found the country was liable because Martinez was essentially a victim of torture by a Cuban government agent who had acted within the scope of his employment.

Since then, Martinez has had trouble collecting any money.

President George W. Bush in 2005 ordered that she be paid nearly $200,000 from frozen Cuban accounts. Her attorneys two years ago told Miami New Times that they seized two Cuban airplanes hijacked by refugees who sought political asylum in the
Florida Keys and were targeting charter companies that booked direct flights to Cuba.

Anderson did not return phone calls or emails for comment about the recent filing in federal court and Martinez could not be reached.

The “registration of a foreign judgment against the Republic of Cuba” filed by Anderson was assigned to U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. The Miami judge signed an administrative order closing the case one day later on Oct. 23. A clerk’s note said that it could be reopened with the filing of a “notice of entry of parties.”

Miami attorney Andrew Hall, partner in Hall, Lamb & Hall, won a $2.9 billion judgment against Cuba last year on behalf of a Cuban exile who claimed his father was forced to commit suicide when Fidel Castro came to power during the communist revolution in 1959.

Hall told the Review on Monday it is better not to ask a federal court judge to just record a state judgment but to sue for its enforcement under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Hall has said he would attempt to collect for his client by tapping frozen Cuban assets in the U.S. and by pursuing Cuban-linked businesses around the world.

“There certainly is going to be a major fight over it, a major fight over bank accounts,” he said. “I expected that. This is a first step. Now we have a federal judgment and we can proceed.”
 

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