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Posted October 13, 2007 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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A South Florida businessman was sentenced to 2 � years in prison Friday morning for conspiring in a scheme to violate Cuba travel restrictions through licenses of bogus churches.

Victor Vazquez, 40, of Pompano Beach, was sentenced in a Miami federal court by U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck as one of the country’s first defendants charged for illegally obtaining religious travel licenses to circumvent a more than 44-year-old travel ban to Cuba.

The case has triggered other investigations by a U.S. Attorney’s task force targeting violators of the trade embargo against Cuba.

Vazquez, a former small business owner, had earlier pleaded guilty for conspiring to defraud the U.S. government.

Margolis, who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of filing a false government application, will be sentenced on Monday.

The 76-year-old is a Fort Lauderdale real estate magnate who amassed a small fortune developing shopping centers and office parks through South Florida during the past 30 years.

A government investigation revealed a clever business model that allowed thousands of Cuban Americans to shuttle to and from Cuba.

In one instance cited in the court indictment, an application for religious travel was filed on behalf of a fake First Church of Christ. Local travel agencies then distributed letters authorizing travel to Cuba related to the church.

A pre-sentencing report last month said Vazquez sold the use of his licenses to 6,500 travelers.

Also sentenced on Friday were Vazquez’s ex-wife, Kekalani Vazquez, and a Hialeah travel agent, Yury Rodriguez.

Kekalani Vazquez had been enlisted by her husband and received three years of probation.

Rodriguez was a salesman at an agency connected with the scheme and received one year and one day in prison.

Vazquez and Rodriguez are scheduled to go to prison in January. Negotiating the date with the court, Celeste Higgins, Vazquez’s attorney, said her client is helping investigators looking into similar schemes.

‘‘This appears to be only the tip of the iceberg,’’ she told the judge.

The attorney also cited Vazquez’s recent marriage to a woman he met in Cuba.

Letters from a neighbor, business partners, friends and family filed with the court this week cited benevolent work he has done, which including helping a girl with cancer get a prosthetic leg, and mentoring an autistic niece.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on October 13, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Maybe it’s time to lift the travel embargo or do Cuban Americans really want to start eating their own?

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  2. Follow up post #2 added on October 14, 2007 by Cubana with 282 total posts

    The rest of the world can go to Cuba any time it likes. Does the US live on a different planet from the rest of us? Get rid of your illegal embargo!

  3. Follow up post #3 added on November 27, 2007 by Jessica Dobson

    I am facinated at the stupidity of our government!  It is absolutely appalling.  I have always been facinated with Cuba and I recently discovered this ridiculous act by our government.  I am ashamed for our countries behavior towards Cuba and Americans.  I am ashamed of our persistence with this ridiculous embargo and travel ban.  Any reasons that could exist for our governments behavior ceased more than 15 years ago.  I am ashamed of our governments stance to get votes in Florida.  We are hurting innocent people in Cuba, children, grandmothers, etc.  Our civil liberties are being violated and I want to offer my support to Mr. Vazquez.  I think you are a political prisoner.  What really outrages me is the government managed to prosecute Mr. Vasquez yet Luis Posada is a free man????????????????  Where is the justice in that?

  4. Follow up post #4 added on January 04, 2008 by Dave K

    You got what you deserve Victor. You pulled you ex-wife into your stupidity. I hope you serve all 2 years.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on January 04, 2008 by Dave K

    at least I got my $15,000 out of you. You can’t scam everyone. IT CAUGHT UP WITH YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Follow up post #6 added on February 15, 2008 by tammy


    Sounds like you and Kay had something going on…One of her many I here. I think maybe she enjoyed the fruits of Victor’s labor, maybe your next….

  7. Follow up post #7 added on October 29, 2009 by Dave is a moron

    Dave you are in fact a moron. “One of many i HERE” really Dave? Lets try HEAR shal we? People like you deserve to be scammed, and then put on a small island of nothing but dumb ass clowns, much like yourself.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on October 30, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    #7 Please leave out the personal attacks. Thanks.

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