Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oh, brother

The story of the three fugitives from American justice who are in Cuban custody – Carlos, Luis, and Jose Benitez, three brothers from Miami wanted for Medicare fraud – is very intriguing. These guys had the perverse ingenuity to build a business and defraud the government, if charges are proved, of $119 million within about a decade of arriving on our shores. Amazing.

But their current predicament is more interesting still. They are said to be in Cuban custody for immigration violations. (Sort of a mirror image of Posada Carriles’ former predicament, but let’s not get into that.) Why were they detained – because they committed a fragrant violation of Cuban law, or was it because the U.S. government asked Cuba if they were in Cuban territory, and Cuba then acted?

Since the brothers have so much family outside Cuba, it would not have been hard for U.S. investigators to figure out their whereabouts. If that happened, it would have been natural then for Washington to communicate with Cuban authorities in Havana. Especially considering that in some cases, Cuba and the United States do cooperate effectively in law enforcement matters. Consider this case from earlier this year, where Cuba turned over a fugitive and the United States praised Cuba’s cooperation, albeit obliquely.

The next chapter in this story could be that the three brothers are loaded on a plane with U.S. marshals, en route to arraignment. If so, one wonders whether that would happen before or after January 20, 2009.

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