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Florida professor admits he was Cuban spy

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• NEW: Florida professor admits in Miami court he was 30-year Cuban spy
• NEW: Carlos Alvarez and his wife Elsa pleaded guilty to conspiracy
• NEW: They will be sentenced February 27
• NEW: Alvarez admitted to spying on South Florida's exile community
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Florida professor admitted Tuesday he had been a Cuban spy for nearly 30 years, and his wife -- also a professor -- admitted she knew of his conduct, authorities said.

Both Carlos Alvarez and his wife Elsa pleaded guilty to lesser charges in federal court in Miami.

The couple entered their pleas as part of a deal to avoid a jury trial on previous charges of being Cuban agents who failed to register with the U.S. government, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday. (Watch what Alvarez's lawyer says about his intentions Video)

The more serious offense could have put the couple in prison for a decade, the paper said.

A psychology professor at Florida International University, Alvarez faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to become an unregistered foreign agent.

Elsa Alvarez, who also worked at the university, faces up to three years in prison for concealing her husband's participation in that conspiracy.

The two are scheduled to be sentenced February 27.

When arrested in January, federal prosecutors said the FBI had covertly monitored Alvarez' ongoing communications with the Cuban Intelligence Service.

Authorities said U.S. agents eavesdropped as Alvarez received sophisticated communications equipment from Cuban intelligence designed to keep his activities secret.

Alvarez acknowledged Tuesday he had worked as a Cuban covert intelligence agent on behalf of the Havana government for nearly three decades.

Alvarez said he had gathered and transmitted information about Cuban exile groups to Cuban intelligence agents.

The FBI said Alvarez continued his criminal conduct until June 22, 2005, when he admitted his activities to U.S. counterintelligence agents.

"This investigation unmasked a Cuban intelligence agent who served for many years as an educator, all the while spying on South Florida's Cuban exile community for his Cuban handlers," said United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Alex Acosta in Miami.

In Washington, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said the plea "demonstrates our firm commitment to protect our country and our citizens against the agents of foreign powers."


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