By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com
A former Cuban prisons official, who fled Miami after he was accused of abusing inmates and lying on his U.S. visa and residency documents, has apparently again left his latest U.S. home in a hurry, amid fresh news reports on his case.
Crescencio Marino Rivero, 71, and his wife, Juana Ferrer, lived in quiet retirement in Miami until October, when several dissidents accused him of abuses when he was a top prisons official in Villa Clara province. He rushed back to Cuba soon afterward.
Rivero quietly returned in late 2012 or early this year and was living with relatives in a three-story building in the New Jersey town of Kearny, next to Newark, according to knowledgeable persons in Miami and New Jersey.
But he rushed to the Newark airport last month, and apparently took a flight to Canada and went on to Cuba, just days after El Nuevo Herald and Miami’s Spanish-language TV stations reported that Rivero had returned from Cuba, the sources said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been investigating Rivero and Ferrer, partly for the human rights complaints — which Rivero flatly denies — but mostly because the couple allegedly lied on their U.S. visa and residency applications.
The couple, both former Ministry of Interior officers in Villa Clara, have said they retired from the ministry years ago and moved to Miami in 2010 to live with a daughter who has a young child.
Ferrer told El Nuevo Herald on July 10 that her husband was living in Cuba and accused the media of harassing her and her family and forcing the couple to live apart.
But people who know the family in Miami and New Jersey said he returned to the United States late last year or early this year and settled in with a relative in Kearny, believed to be a sister, in hopes of avoiding the glare of publicity in Miami.
Rivero applied for subsidized housing in New Jersey, added the sources, who requested anonymity. U.S. government officials in Miami halted their refugee assistance to Rivero and Ferrer in December, according to other sources.
But he grew nervous after the media picked up his trail again last month, said one of the sources. Four or five days after El Nuevo Herald published a story about him on July 11, he told relatives he was taking a flight to Canada and left for the airport.
Rivero flew on to Cuba, but his current whereabouts are unknown. Calls to the Kearny home went unanswered.
His daughter, Anabel Rivero, said her father does not face any U.S. immigration charges and that as a legal U.S. resident can “enter and leave this country whenever he feels like it.” She declined to comment further.
ICE has declined to confirm or deny that it is investigating Rivero and Ferrer, and a spokesman said Friday that it could not comment on the reports of Rivero’s departures and returns because of privacy regulations.
A half-dozen former political prisoners have accused Rivero of abusing them or ordering guards to abuse them when he served as a senior official in juvenile detention centers and later adult prisons in Villa Clara in the 1980s and 1990s.
One of the dissidents, Rafael Perez, said that he was more concerned about the former Cuban government official’s apparent ease in obtaining U.S. visas and entering, leaving and then returning to the United States despite the ICE inquiry. “I don’t understand it,” he said from his home in Houston. “Shouldn’t this be a matter of national security for this country?”