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Manager who wore fake bomb to pull off bank heist gets 9 years

Assistant manager who wore fake bomb to pull off bank robbery sentenced to 9 years in federal prison

A woman who conspired with her boyfriend in 2012 to steal $565,500 from the East L.A. bank where she worked by strapping a fake bomb to herself to simulate a kidnapping was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in federal prison, federal prosecutors said.

Aurora Barrera, 33, and the ex-boyfriend, 36-year-old Reyes "Ray" Vega, were found guilty of multiple bank robbery offenses in March after a weeklong  trial. The jury found the couple guilty of conspiracy to commit bank robbery and bank robbery.

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For the Record: A previous version of this post said Menchaca was sentenced to 1,500 hours of custodial or other work at facilities, but he was sentenced to 1,500 hours of custody time served on weekends.

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The jury also found that Vega and Barrera committed the robbery by assaulting a bank employee with a dangerous weapon -- the fake explosive.

Vega orchestrated a plan in which Barrera pretended to be kidnapped and forced to rob the Bank of America branch where she worked in September 2012.

As she acted in fear that the fake bomb might explode, Barrera took money from a safe and dumped it outside, where it was picked up by an accomplice, Richard Menchaca. Another accomplice, Bryan Perez, then took the cash, which was split among them at a hotel later that day, according to authorities.

After the heist, a Los Angeles County sheriff's bomb robot was used to pry the fake device off of Berrera.

Later, however, investigators determined she knew her supposed kidnappers and the group was eventually arrested.

Menchaca and Perez pleaded guilty and testified at the trial of Vega and Barrera.

Menchaca was sentenced Monday to five years of probation with 1,500 hours of custody time served on weekends. Perez is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 18.with 1,500 hours of custody time served on weekends. Perez is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 18.

The group has also been ordered to pay joint restitution in the amount of $557,300.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland, follow @Caitlin__Owens, or email her at caitlin.owens@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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