Ex-US govt employee indicted on Cuba spy charge

The United States has indicted a former State Department employee now living in Sweden with conspiracy to commit espionage for Cuba, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Justice officials said that Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, allegedly helped to "spot, assess and recruit US citizens" in sensitive national security positions to serve as Cuban intelligence agents.

One of those citizens was Ana Belen Montes, 55, currently serving a 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in March 2002 of conspiracy to spy on behalf of Cuba's communist regime.

If convicted, Velazquez faces a sentence of up to life in prison, the Justice Department said in a statement.

A Puerto Rico native educated at prestigious American schools, Velazquez worked for the State Department's international development arm USAID from 1989 until 2002, when she left the country and never returned.

A grand jury returned an indictment against her in February 2004, but it remained sealed until it was opened Thursday in US District Court in Washington.

The Justice Department said Velazquez, also known as "Marta Rita Kviele" and "Barbara," is currently living in Stockholm, but its statement made no mention of any request to Sweden for her extradition.