An armed guard watches as sacks containing valuables are moved into a truck… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)
Robbers broke through the roof of a South El Monte company, slipped down a rope, blindfolded and tied up employees and stole perhaps more than $1 million that had been destined for ATMs throughout the Los Angeles region, investigators said Friday.
"This is one of the biggest robberies we've seen this year, even compared to the jewelry heists," said Lt. Kent Wegener of the County Sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau.
"It appears it has all the hallmarks of a well-planned robbery at this point," he said.
About 7:30 p.m. Thursday, three robbers peeled back the roof of the Commonwealth International building in the 12300 block of Barringer Street. The company, owned and operated by current and former law enforcement officers, handles cash for hundreds of automated teller machines across the L.A. region.
Wegener said they dropped down a rope and wove their way through a complex of vaults and safe rooms inside the building.
They first jumped a manager, blindfolding him and binding his hands, Wegener said. They forced the manager to summon two other employees, who were also blindfolded and bound.
"They came upon the victims so fast, they say they never got a look at them. They just knew they were three men," Wegener said.
The robbers took about 20 minutes dragging cash from the main vault out a side exit to a car, Wegener said. "Most of the cash was probably in small notes for ATMs," he said.
Insurance assessors and auditors were working to determine the exact loss. None of the employees was injured in the robbery, investigators said.
A person associated with the company alerted the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's Temple Station at around 8:45 p.m. Commonwealth officials did not return calls Friday.
A sheriff's forensic team on Friday dusted for fingerprints and searched for DNA on items the robbers may have come in contact with.
Wegener said the company had security cameras inside, but sources familiar with the investigation said the robbers may have accessed the equipment and removed any record of their presence.
"At this point, we don't have any description," Wegener said.