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3 charged in bizarre East LA 2012 bank robbery, kidnapping

May 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Three men have been arrested and charged in a bizarre bank robbery in East L.A. involving phony explosives strapped to an assistant bank manager in September 2012.

Ray Vega, 34, Richard Menchaca, 36, and Bryan Perez, 27, were charged with conspiracy to commit bank robbery, bank robbery and aiding and abetting the other by force, violence and intimidation. Officials stressed at a Monday news conference that the investigation is still ongoing.

Authorities were called to the Bank of America on Atlantic Boulevard on Sept. 5 after the branch manager arrived at work with a device that resembled a bomb strapped to her body. She told detectives she was leaving her Huntington Park house on her way to work when she was kidnapped by two masked men. She said the armed robbers ordered her to go the vault, get the money and throw it out the side door.

The suspects got away with approximately $565,500. The bomb squad arrived quickly and removed the device from the manager. They determined it was not an explosive, but was made to look like one.

A week after the daring robbery, Vega was taken into custody for conspiracy and robbery. He posted $100,000 bail and was released from custody. Eyewitness News learned that Vega was the bank manager's boyfriend.

All three men were taken into custody Friday. Vega was re-arrested in Atlanta as he got off a plane, Menchaca was arrested at his Fontana home and Perez was arrested on his way to work in Los Angeles.

According to a federal indictment, Vega formulated the plan to rob the bank where his girlfriend was the assistant branch manager. Menchaca and Bryan Perez allegedly went to the bank to examine the layout of the building and the area surrounding the bank.

On the day of the robbery, Vega arranged for his girlfriend, identified as A.B. in the indictment, to wear the item resembling an explosive device. Menchaca picked up the money that A.B. left outside, and then gave the money to Perez, the indictment stated.

Perez then met with Vega at a hotel to split the proceeds of the bank robbery, the indictment alleged.

At the news conference, Huntington Park Police Chief Jorge Cisneros was asked whether Vega's girlfriend would be charged. He would only say that the suspects were not being charged with kidnapping.

If convicted, the three men face a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison.

Perez and Menchaca appeared before a judge at the federal courthouse in downtown L.A. Monday afternoon and pleaded not guilty. Perez's bail was set at $40,000. If released, he will have to wear an electronic monitoring device. Menchaca's bail will be set at a hearing later this week.

Vega appeared in federal court in Atlanta and will be returned to Los Angeles.

Authorities say the stolen money has not been recovered. Investigators are asking for the public's help because they believe there are others who have information about the crime.

Bank of America is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of additional suspects in the case. Anyone with information is urged to call (888) CANT-HIDE.


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