Couple guilty in bank heist

DOWNEY – The former assistant manager of a Bank of America branch in East Los Angeles and her onetime boyfriend were convicted Monday of plotting a heist in which the woman wore a fake bomb to simulate a kidnapping to steal approximately $565,000 from the bank. Following a one-week trial in United States District Court, the couple was found guilty of conspiracy to commit bank robbery and bank robbery in the Sept. 5, 2012 heist.

Reyes “Ray” Vega, 34, of Bell, and Aurora Barrera, 33, who now resides in Downey, each face up to 30 years in federal prison when they are sentenced on May 19 by United States District Judge Manuel Real.

During the robbery, Barrera walked into the bank with what appeared to be an explosive device taped to her body, convinced a co-worker that she had been kidnapped that morning by two black men, told the co-worker that they had to open the vault and place money outside the bank or else the kidnappers would harm them.

Barrera and her co-worker placed $565,500 of the bank’s money into bags and then threw the bags out the bank’s side door.

One of Vega’s longtime friends, Richard Menchaca, picked up the money and drove it away from the bank. Menchaca met up with another accomplice, Bryan Perez, and they moved the money to a safe location.

The device attached to Barrera’s body turned out to be a hoax when the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad arrived and disabled it using a robot.

Menchaca and Perez were also charged in this case, but they pleaded guilty and testified at the trial of Vega and Barrera.

Several of Vega’s former friends testified at trial about how he asked for help in planning the robbery and how he bragged about it afterwards.

Although a small portion of the money has been recovered, the majority remains outstanding.



Published: March 20, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 49