Comité Nacional por la Libertad de los Cinco Cubanos

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Lesser sentences sought for two Posada associates

by Jay Weaver
May 4, 2007
Reprinted from The Miami Herald

Federal prosecutors have agreed to reduce the prison sentences of two Cuban exiles convicted on weapons charges after their lawyers recently surrendered a stockpile of illegal machine guns, explosives and a grenade launcher to federal agents.

The turnover of weapons, collected from the defendants' friends in Miami, was designed to help developer Santiago Alvarez and colleague Osvaldo Mitat lower their respective four- and three-year prison terms.

Both Alvarez and Mitat, in their mid-60s, pleaded guilty last fall to conspiring to possess illegal weapons in a 2005 criminal case unrelated to the recent firearms surrender. Their plea deal led to complicated negotiations with prosecutors that resulted in the surrender of the new cache of firearms in January.

Alvarez is known as the benefactor of Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles, a longtime anti-Castro figure who is facing unrelated criminal charges for immigration fraud. He is under house arrest in Miami.

The U.S. attorney's office, in a motion filed late Thursday, said Alvarez and Mitat "have substantially assisted the government."

Prosecutors did not recommend the length of the sentence reductions to U.S. District Judge James Cohn, saying they would explain the "nature and substance of the assistance" at an upcoming hearing. Cohn could shave off several months or more than one year.

The unusual arms turnover has no connection to Posada's problems with federal authorities. Posada, 79, a former CIA-trained explosives expert, stands trial May 11 in Texas on charges of lying about how he sneaked into the country in 2005.

He is also the focus of a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., which is investigating his role as the alleged mastermind of the hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian a decade ago.

The firearms surrendered consisted of dozens of machine guns, rifles, C-4 explosive, dynamite, detonators, a grenade launcher and ammunition, federal law enforcement officials said. The cache was considerably larger than the nine illegal firearms seized by federal agents in the fall of 2005 when Alvarez and Mitat were first indicted on weapons charges in Broward County.

Agents for the FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives collected the latest stash of weapons at the Miami law office of Silvia Piñera-Vazquez and Sofia Powell-Cosio.

"We're pleased that the sentence reduction motion was filed, and we look forward to Santiago's and Osvaldo's release and return to the Miami community," Piñera-Vazquez said.


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