Identities of 3 accused spies still elude feds
By CAROL ROSENBERG
Herald Staff Writer
More than a month after prosecutors declared them ``John Does,'' federal
authorities are still unable to identify three accused members of a Cuban spy ring
that operated for several years in South Florida.
Arrested Sept. 15 as Manuel Viramontes, 31, Luis Medina III, 30, and Ruben
Campa, 33, all claiming U.S. citizenship, the U.S. Attorney's office classified them
as John Doe 1, 2 and 3, in their subsequent Oct. 2 indictment that alleges they
were agents of the government of Fidel Castro.
``Only they and Fidel know who they really are,'' said John Schlesinger
of the U.S.
Attorney's Office on Friday.
``They're still being carried as John Does,'' added FBI Special Agent Mike
Prosecutors argued in court that all three men are actually masquerading
identities of U.S. citizens who died as young boys in Texas, presumably people of
Hispanic heritage who would not have relatives in South Florida. Not only did they
allegedly assume their names, but they supposedly took their birthdays as well, a
mechanism that allowed them to obtain birth certificates.
Investigators, they said, believe the three men are actually Cuban citizens
In the case of the man who calls himself Viramontes, Deputy U.S. Attorney
Caroline Heck Miller alleged in court that federal agents believe from their analysis
of his personal documents that he has a wife of 10 years still living in Cuba.
Further, she said, FBI wiretaps of his home determined that, while he spoke in
Spanish on the telephone he assumed a Puerto Rican accent, but inside his home
he spoke with a Cuban accent.
And in the case of the man who calls himself Medina, Deputy U.S. Attorney
Lewis alleged in court that he is in fact a major in the Cuban military whose real
first name is Ramon. Authorities surmised this by watching videotape of the
suspect, which they believed was shot in Cuba, in which people call him
Defense attorneys for two of the men -- Paul McKenna for John Doe 1 and
Cohen for John Doe 2 -- say their clients steadfastly maintain that they are who
they claim to be, Viramontes and Medina. Federal public defender Joaquin
Mendez, who represents John Doe 3, could not be reached for comment despite
At issue is, if the men are not U.S. citizens, how and when they arrived
Florida -- and who helped them.
Did they come with valid U.S. immigration documents and then assume new
identities? Or did they arrive illegally -- perhaps during the 1994 rafter crisis when
Cuban migrants overwhelmed South Florida's shores?
Prosecutors consider the three men to be leaders of the 10-member ring
allegedly snooped on Cuban American interest groups and tried to monitor the
Miami-Dade activity at the Pentagon's U.S. Southern Command headquarters,
which controls all U.S. troop activity in the Southern Hemisphere.
The trio face a September 1999 trial, along with Rene Gonzalez, 42, and
Guerrero, 39, who were both born in the United States. All are accused of
conspiring to act as agents of a foreign government, Cuba, without registering with
Attorney General Janet Reno. John Does 1 and 2 and Guerrero are also accused
of conspiring to pass along U.S. national defense information to Cuba.
Five other people arrested as ring members have pleaded guilty to lesser
carrying punishments ranging from five to 10 years in prison. Sentencing is
expected in September 1999 as well. Their guilty plea agreements suggest they are
cooperating with federal authorities as they develop their cases against the other
All 10 people, two of them women, are in jail.