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Florida's worst spies: Espionage comes to the Sunshine State

George Trofimoff was arrested by the FBI in 2000.

George Trofimoff was arrested by the FBI in 2000.

American culture is fascinated with spies, and Florida has links to some of the most intricate espionage cases the country has seen. Here are a few high-profile cases from recent years.

George Trofimoff

It took 25 years for authorities to capture George Trofimoff. Decades of providing highly classified documents to the Soviet Union finally caught up with him when he was arrested at Tampa hotel in 2000.

The former high-ranking civilian employee of the Army was a naturalized American citizen and the son of Russian emigres. He worked at the Joint Interrogation Center in Nuremberg, Germany, and processed highly sensitive American intelligence. He'd photograph documents and share intel on American's knowledge of the military capabilities and size of Soviet armed forces.

Times files

Trofimoff was caught on tape talking about how he had spied for the Soviet Union.

Trofimoff sent his reports to a prominent Russian Orthodox priest, who had recruited Trimoff to the KGB and later went on to become the archbishop of Vienna.

Trofimoff, 73, had been living in a military community in Melbourne, Fla., at the time of his arrest.

The most Florida fact of all? He worked as a bag boy at Publix.

Roderick James Ramsay/Clyde Lee Conrad

Another decades-long espionage scheme ended in Tampa in the 1980s where FBI agents arrested one of several American soldiers who sold military secrets to Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

Times files

Roderick James Ramsay in 1992.

Roderick James Ramsay was part of a spy ring of American military members that operated in Germany for decades. Ramsay and others, including sergeant Clyde Lee Conrad, were stationed in West Germany and collected sensitive intelligence on how the U.S. and its allies planned to protect Europe in the event of an invasion.

RELATED: Former Tampa FBI agent Joe Navarro details 'unprecedented' Cold War spy sting in new book

They'd stuff duffel bags full of documents and plans, stash them at a safe hours and use a video camera to record the pages before burning them.

Authorities nabbed Conrad first, in West Germany who lead them to Ramsay. The former Army sergeant with a near-genius IQ had followed his mother to Florida, later moving into a friend's house and then living out of his car.

Investigators arrested him at a Tampa hotel, and he served 23 years in prison.

Cuba Five (aka: Miami Five)

This group of Cuban nationals was convicted of spying in the United States in 2001. As their name implies, their work was focused in Miami, though the Cuban government claims they were there to spy on exile groups, not Americans.

The Cuban Five would infiltrate anti-Castro exile groups in South Florida and send the message back through radio transmissions and coded electronic phone messages. Things got dicey in 1996 when Cuban fighters shot down two planes that were carrying U.S. citizens working with an exile group. The FBI arrested the Cuban Five in Miami in September 1998.

Times files

Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino were released in 2014. The fifth member, Fernando González, was released in 2011.

As for their reputation in Cuba, they're kind of a big deal. They're celebrated as agents working to prevent terrorist attacks, not spies, and their faces adorn murals and stamps.

Carlos and Elsa Alvarez

The longtime Florida International University psychology professor and his wife were accused of spying for Cuba's communist government for decades. The couple targeted their spying on Cuban-American exile groups and prominent individuals in Miami.

The professor's attorneys argued he was not a Cuban intelligence agent or a supporter of Fidel Castro. They said in court that he was trying to open avenues of communication between the two countries.

Carlos Alvarez, eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy to become an unregistered foreign agent. Elsa Alvarez admitted that she knew what her husband was doing but failed to report him. He received five years in prison. She got three years.

Florida's worst spies: Espionage comes to the Sunshine State 06/16/17 [Last modified: Friday, June 16, 2017 8:39am]
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