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Ex-bank employee, boyfriend found guilty in East L.A. heist

TheftCrime, Law and JusticeCrimeJustice SystemBank of America Corp.

A couple who allegedly used a fake pipe bomb to commit a bank robbery in East Los Angeles in 2012 have been found guilty, the U.S. attorney’s office said Monday.

[For the record, 8:02 p.m. PDT, Monday, March 17, 2014: A previous version of this post incorrectly cited the Los Angeles County district attorney's office as the prosecuting agency.]

Former East Los Angeles Bank of America assistant manager Aurora Barrera and her boyfriend, Ray Vega, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and bank robbery.

Jurors also found that Barrera and Vega assaulted a bank employee by using a dangerous weapon or device. Prosecutors said each could be sentenced May 19 to 30 years behind bars.

The bizarre story broke on Sept. 5, 2012, when Barrera told authorities she was abducted by two robbers who strapped a bomb to her chest.

She was then ordered to drive to the bank, where she subsequently removed a significant amount of cash from the vault and tossed it into a bag outside the branch’s back door, she said. 

In all, the robbers got away with $565,500. Prosecutors said most of the money had either been spent or is unaccounted for. They recovered $8,800. 

Barrera told investigators none of the masked robbers was armed with a gun but provided no further details about them. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department's bomb squad removed the bomb strapped to Barrera and later determined that it was fake.

The bank heist was considered very unusual because bank managers are rarely kidnapped and because of the use of explosive devices.

Authorities arrested Ray Vega on Sept. 12, 2012. At the time, he was described as an acquaintance of Barrera's, but authorities later determined he was her boyfriend.

Vega and Barrera were indicted last year by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit a bank robbery and bank robbery. The also were accused of aiding and abetting each other by force, violence and intimidation.

Prosecutors alleged Vega arranged for Barrera to strap on a fake bomb so she would appear to be a hostage. They alleged Barrera helped formulate the plan, using her knowledge of the South Atlantic Boulevard branch.

Two other men -- Richard Menchaca and Bryan Perez -- also were indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank robbery. Both Perez and Menchaca have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

Twitter: @latvives

 

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