It was around this time that Cabrera began to believe the individual worked for Russia’s FSB intelligence agency, according to the FBI.
Later, at a subsequent meeting in Moscow, the same official produced old emails from Cabrera’s account in which the Mexican scientist appeared to be scouting for real estate in Miami.
The Russian official brought up Cabrera's family situation and told him, “We can help each other,” according to the original indictment.
At the official’s direction, Cabrera traveled to Miami and, using an associate's name, rented an apartment in the same complex where the U.S. government source was living.
It’s not clear if the scientist knew why the Russians wanted him to rent the apartment, but frequently intelligence agents seek to insulate themselves by recruiting other people to carry out various tasks. Rarely does the recruit have full knowledge of the entire mission.
The individual Cabrera was trailing is not named in court papers and is described only as a U.S. government “confidential human source” who previously provided information regarding Russian intelligence activities affecting U.S. national security interests.
Prior to his arrest, Cabrera worked in Singapore as an associate professor at a medical school jointly run by Duke University and the National University of Singapore.
He also was appointed director in 2018 of the FEMSA Biotechnology Center at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in northern Mexico, which said he earned doctorates in molecular microbiology in Russia and molecular cardiology in Germany.
In his hometown of El Espinal, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Cabrera is something of a local hero, remembered for his work to promote scientific research, heal those suffering from diabetes and assist in the rebuilding of homes after devastating earthquakes.