Cuban spy's ex-wife buys plane at Key West auction
KEY WEST -- The ex-wife of a Cuban spy placed the winning $7,000 bid Monday for a biplane that carried eight defectors here from the communist nation, saying she hoped to sell the aircraft privately for more money.
The auction was arranged by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office to help pay the $27.1-million the Cuban government owes the woman, Ana Margarita Martinez, after she won a lawsuit in 2001. She said she decided to buy the aging Antonov AN-2 Colt because bids were below the plane's value.
"I hoped that it would sell for more," she said. "Still we had a victory; we got to keep this property of the Cuban government."
The plane will probably be moved to Opa-locka Airport as Martinez looks for buyers willing to pay its estimated market value of between $40,000 and $60,000, said her attorney, Scott Leeds.
The crop-dusting plane was flown by the defectors to Key West Nov. 11. They were released from U.S. immigration custody four days later.
The plane was seized by the Sheriff's Office based on Circuit Judge Allen Postman's Dec. 4 order that the plane be auctioned at Key West International Airport.
Under Postman's ruling, Martinez was to receive the proceeds as partial payment on a $27.1-million punitive settlement a judge awarded her under an antiterrorism law.
The judge agreed with Martinez's claim that she was used as a political pawn by her husband, Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque, and the Cuban government.
Roque, posing as a defector, was sent to Florida to infiltrate groups opposed to the communist rule in Cuba. He returned to Cuba before he was indicted in absentia of being part of a Cuban spy ring.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry had demanded that the United States return the plane and the people who took it to Florida.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire