Today in History: Spy Detained in Little Havana 1

March 13, 2003: “Former” Cuban Intelligence Officer Lazaro Amaya La Puente was detained on immigration-related charges while working in Little Havana. The courts subsequently ruled that Amaya had overstayed his visa, failed to register as a representative of a foreign nation, and provided misleading testimony. He had originally arrived in the US in 2000. Prior to leaving Cuba, Amaya was a guard at the US Interests Section where he gathered intelligence on US personnel and the activities of Cuban dissidents and other government opponents. In December 2005, the US Court of Appeals ordered his deportation.

Editor’s Note: “Failure to register as a representative of a foreign nation” has become an espionage-associated charge experiencing widespread use since the 1990s. Originally created to list foreign lobbyists, it is punishable by 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The charge requires only that the government prove the individual works under the direction of a foreign nation without Washington’s permission.