Duke-NUS researcher arrested under suspicion of being Russian agent

Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes, a scientist at Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, was arrested for allegedly acting on behalf of a Russian government official.

At the time of his arrest, the National Heart Centre Singapore employed Fuentes, who also held an appointment in the cardiovascular and metabolic disorders program at Duke-NUS Medical School. A Mexican citizen and graduate of Kazan University in Russia, Fuentes is listed as a Duke-NUS-affiliated author for more than 20 cardiology papers dating from 2016 to January of this year. 

“All of his appointments have been suspended, and pending the ongoing investigations in the US we are unable to comment further,” wrote Dharshini Subbiah, a senior communications specialist at Duke-NUS, in an email to The Chronicle Thursday morning.

In his most recent paper, his name was linked to five academic affiliations spanning from Russia to Germany and Mexico to Singapore. 

The Miami Herald reported that Fuentes was arrested Sunday after following and having his wife take a photo of a U.S. government vehicle in Miami. While attempting to return to Mexico two days later, Fuentes and his wife were stopped by customs agents at the Miami airport who asked to inspect their phones.

In the recently deleted images folder on the phone of Fuentes’ wife, the customs agent found a close-up photograph of the license plate of the U.S. government vehicle. 

According to a statement from federal prosecutors, Fuentes was recruited by a Russian government official in 2019 to collect information about the U.S. government, sharing directions and information through secret meetings in Moscow. Upon being questioned at the airport, Fuentes confessed to conducting the act on behalf of a Russian official.

He was told to rent property in Miami-Dade County, Fla., under a different name and not tell his family about the Moscow meetings. The official, according to the statement, told Fuentes to “locate the car, obtain the source’s vehicle license plate number, and note the physical location of the source’s vehicle.”

Since then, Fuentes has been charged on two accounts: acting on behalf of a foreign agent without notifying the attorney general and conspiracy to act on behalf of a foreign agent. He will be arraigned March 3 in Miami federal court. 

Nathan Luzum contributed reporting.

Editor's Note: The Chronicle was unable to find contact information for Fuentes or a lawyer.

Mona Tong profile
Mona Tong

Mona Tong is a Trinity senior and director of diversity, equity and inclusion analytics for The Chronicle's 117th volume. She was previously news editor for Volume 116.


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