With workers’ comp claim, sham bank-heist figure compounds the nerve
The former assistant manager at an East Los Angeles Bank of America branch certainly had nerve.
First she pretended to be a victim of armed assailants as she helped to rob the bank where she worked. Then, still playing the victim, she asked the bank to pay for her robbery-induced post-traumatic stress disorder.
It was all a sham, according to investigators.
Aurora Barrera, 33, had just been sentenced to nine years in federal prison for her role in the dramatic 2012 robbery when she was arrested last week on the additional charge of filing a fraudulent workers’ compensation claim.
It all started on Sept. 5, 2012, when Barrera walked into her own bank branch wearing what she said was a bomb and persuaded her colleagues to empty the vault and leave the cash outside for her assailants. She claimed they had kidnapped her and held her at gunpoint before strapping explosives to her.
Barrera filed the PTSD claim two days later, and the bank’s insurance company soon began paying out. The company paid her more than $35,000 in disability benefits and covered more than $9,000 in medical bills associated with the alleged workplace injury, according to California Department of Insurance spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid.
But the bomb was later discovered to be a fake — a flashlight wrapped in black electrical tape — and so was the rest of the story, investigators determined. Barrera was an accomplice, not a victim, and at her sentencing last Wednesday she was ordered to turn herself in to authorities in early September.
On Thursday morning, police knocked on the door of her Downey home to settle one more account.
“It’s shocking to think that Barrera, a trusted financial institution manager, would be a co-conspirator in a bank robbery and staged kidnapping, and then have the audacity to file a bogus workers’ comp claim for traumatic stress and believe she could get away with it,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said.
Only a fraction of the $565,500 stolen from the bank has been recovered. So in addition to their prison sentences, Barrera and her co-conspirators, including a former boyfriend, have been ordered to pay $557,300 in restitution.
Barrera, who could not be reached for comment, faces up to another five years behind bars on the insurance fraud charge.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.