Huntington Park Police Chief Jorge Cisneros, left, announces that three… (Christina House, For The…)
It seem like the perfect crime: Masked men snatch an assistant bank manager in her garage, strap a bomb to her and force the woman to rob her own East Los Angeles bank of $565,500.
But now authorities allege that one of three men charged with last fall's movie-like holdup is none other than the assistant bank manager's boyfriend.
According to a federal indictment unsealed Monday, Reyes "Ray" Vega arranged for the woman, whose name has not been released, to strap on a fake bomb so she would appear to be a hostage — setting the stage for him to rob the bank in September.
Vega was one of three men indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank robbery. Richard Menchaca and Bryan Perez were also arrested Friday and appeared in federal court Monday.
Sources familiar with the investigation but not authorized to discuss it said there was insufficient evidence to arrest the assistant bank manager. She told investigators that she had been kidnapped from her Huntington Park home by black men, made to wear a bomb and ordered to empty the bank vault or face certain death.
But none of the men have been charged with kidnapping, and none fit the description provided by the woman, who drove herself to the bank.
Huntington Park Police Chief Jorge Cisneros said Vega, 34, planned and arranged to rob the South Atlantic Avenue branch of Bank of America, where his girlfriend worked.
Perez and Menchaca cased the bank the evening before the crime, Cisneros said. Early the next morning, they allegedly took a car registered to a relative of Vega and used the vehicle to pick up the money.
On the morning of the robbery, "Vega arranged for [the woman] to wear a device resembling an explosive on her person so that she would appear to be a hostage," Cisneros said. The woman, identified only as A.B. in the indictment, entered the bank about 8:30 a.m. and told her colleagues about the device.
The fake explosive was so convincing that another employee helped the woman empty the safe of $565,500, according to the indictment. The assistant bank manager placed the money outside the bank's door, where Menchaca picked it up, according to the indictment. A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department bomb squad used a robot to pry the device off the woman and determined that it was not a bomb.
The money was subsequently split up at a hotel room, according to the April 25 indictment. "The stolen money has not been recovered," Cisneros said.
Shortly after the holdup, Vega was arrested on suspicion of bank robbery by Huntington Park police. He was released on $100,000 bail.
Timothy Delaney, head of the FBI criminal division in Los Angeles that aided Huntington Park police, said Vega was arrested on federal charges Friday as he got off a plane in Atlanta from Los Angeles. Menchaca was arrested by an FBI SWAT team at his Fontana home, while Perez was detained during a traffic stop in Los Angeles.
Delaney said other suspects are involved in the crime and additional arrests are expected.
Bank of America has offered $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of other suspects.