Banker who used fake bomb to rob branch charged with faking PTSD claim


A former Bank of America employee who, in an elaborate scheme, helped to rob her own branch by showing up to work with a fake bomb strapped to her body has been charged with filing a fraudulent workers’ compensation claim stemming from the incident.

Two days after the September 2012 robbery, Aurora Barrera, 33, filed a claim against her employer for post-traumatic stress disorder. The bank’s insurance company subsequently 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.

Aurora, who had been an assistant manager at the bank branch in East Los Angeles, initially told investigators that she had been held hostage at her home by two armed men who forced her to wear the bomb to work in order to help them rob the bank.


Investigators later determined that Barrera was in on the heist, using the fake bomb -- a flashlight wrapped in black electrical tape -- to persuade a co-worker to help empty the vault and leave the cash outside. Aurora’s partners scooped up the $565,500 and divided it in a hotel room later that day, according to authorities.

Only a fraction of the money has been recovered. Barrera and her alleged co-conspirators, including a former boyfriend, have been ordered to pay $557,300 in restitution.

Last Wednesday, Barrera was sentenced to nine years in federal prison for her role in the robbery, and was ordered to surrender to authorities on Sept. 8.

On Thursday morning, police arrived at Barrera’s home in Downey and arrested her on the separate charge of insurance fraud in the PTSD claim. She faces a maximum sentence of five years in state prison on the new charge.

Twitter: @jackdolanLAT