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Alleged casino robber is nabbed near LAX

Times Staff Writer

A team of state and Riverside County investigators used cellphone monitoring devices to help track down the video technician who allegedly hog-tied employees at the Soboba Casino in Riverside County last week and took off with $1.5 million in cash from the casino’s vaults.

Rolando Luda Ramos, 25, of Hemet was disguised with a wig when he was arrested at 3 a.m. Saturday at the Executive Inn on El Segundo Boulevard in Gardena, close to Los Angeles International Airport, said Assistant Sheriff Patrick McManus. Ramos had stashed much of the money he had stolen in a duffel bag in his room and was carrying cocaine, McManus said.

Ramos was booked at Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta on Saturday on charges of strong-arm robbery, kidnapping, false imprisonment and battery. He is being held without bail.

Ramos had applied for an emergency passport, but it is still unclear whether he was planning to leave the country or had bought airplane tickets, McManus said.

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Sheriff’s officials recovered $1.3 million of the $1.5 million taken from the vault -- about a third was discovered in the apartment of an accomplice, who investigators allege was the getaway driver.

“He was spending it on the run . . . on drugs, women, rooms and food,” McManus said.

“The robbery was well planned. The getaway was lacking.”

Officials with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said Ramos had worked at the San Jacinto-area casino for two years. He maintained the facility’s video surveillance cameras.

On Thursday, authorities said, Ramos used duct tape to tie up three employees in the casino’s video surveillance room. They said he then called for a security escort to the vault -- supposedly to work on surveillance equipment -- and concealed a handgun, pepper spray and duct tape in his tool belt.

In the vault, McManus said, Ramos took out the gun and ordered two unarmed security guards and five employees who were counting money to line up and face the wall.

Deputies arrived five minutes after the robbery was reported, but there was no sign of the suspect.

The hunt for Ramos included investigators and officials from the Ontario and Fontana police departments, the state attorney general’s office and the Riverside County district attorney’s office.

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McManus said the Sheriff’s Department served six search warrants and secured 12 court orders to monitor telephone records as deputies interviewed Ramos’ friends and acquaintances.

An alleged accomplice, Eric Alan Aguilera, 23, of Hemet, was arrested Friday.

Officials said he drove the getaway car, and that about $500,000 was found in his apartment. They also arrested Aguilera’s girlfriend, Sonya Marie Boyorquez, 23, who helped plan the heist, officials said. Boyorquez’s bail has been set at $250,000.

Ramos had declared bankruptcy last year and had outstanding car and personal loans. His friends told police that he was despondent about a recent breakup with his girlfriend, sheriff’s officials said.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com


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