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FBI finds $600,000 from armored car heist buried in backyard

FBI agents dug up the Fontana backyard of an armored-truck driver convicted of pulling off a $1-million theft, and recovered about $600,000 Wednesday.

Agents assisted by Los Angeles police detectives found the pile of carefully wrapped $20 and $100 bills in a large food storage bin after excavating the yard of the suburban home in the 9300 block of Marcona Avenue, said Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman. Investigators found the box a foot below the surface of the lawn between two trees.

The home is owned by Cesar Yanez, one of the two armored-truck drivers who carried out a scheme last year to slip more than $1 million out of the stacks of cash they ferried from a Bank of America vault in downtown Los Angeles to a Loomis armored car facility.

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During an armored-truck trip in June 2014, prosecutors have said, Yanez and fellow driver Aldo Esquivel Vega parked at Los Anayas restaurant on West Adams Boulevard, stashed bags containing about $1 million in cash in a trash can and continued their route, hoping to avoid detection, according to an indictment. An accomplice picked up the money and took it to Yanez’s home, prosecutors said.

But it was only a matter of time before such a large chunk of money was missed. Asst. U.S. Atty. Justin Rhoades said the truck was $1.086 million short of the amount that left the vault and that the men had signed for that day. They had varied their usual route, and Rhoades said they were immediately suspects. A sting operation involving a transfer of a small part of the money helped authorities tie both security drivers to the vanished cash.

Authorities arrested Yanez and Vega, who lived in Pomona, in November. During searches of Yanez’s home, agents found about $90,000 in cash, prosecutors said. They also recovered 23 firearms.

A third person allegedly involved in the scheme — Jovita Medina Guzman of San Bernardino — was arrested on suspicion of handling the money.

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Yanez’s wife, Leticia Yanez, is suspected of picking up the cash from the trash can. She has been charged with bank larceny and conspiracy.

In agreeing to plead guilty, Cesar Yanez admitted that he and Vega hatched the plan to steal the money from the Loomis armored car in the spring of 2014.

Yanez was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for bank larceny and ordered to repay nearly $1 million. But until Wednesday, the location of most of the loot remained a mystery.

Follow Southern California crime on Twitter @lacrimes

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