Ex-Marine sentenced to 14 years in prison for fake bomb bank heist in East LA

A courtroom sketch shows Reyes 'Ray' Vega during his sentencing hearing on Monday, July 21, 2014. (Mona S. Edwards)

An ex-Marine who taped a fake pipe bomb to his girlfriend's body in order to rob a bank in East Los Angeles was sentenced Monday to 14 years in federal prison.

In March, 35-year-old Reyes "Ray" Vega, of Bell, was convicted of bank robbery and conspiracy to commit a bank robbery, with a special allegation of assault by a dangerous weapon. In addition to the prison term, the judge ordered Vega and his co-defendants to pay $556,800 in restitution.

Vega allegedly masterminded the entire operation. His girlfriend Aurora Barrera, the bank's assistant manager, walked into the Bank of America on Sept. 5, 2012, with a fake bomb and convinced a co-worker to empty the vault and place about $565,800 in cash into two bags.

Barrera, 33, threw the bags out a side door at the bank. One of Vega's longtime friends, Richard Menchaca, picked up the money and drove it away from the bank. Menchaca met up with another accomplice, Bryan Perez, and they moved the money to a safe location.

Barrera claimed she was kidnapped that morning by two armed men who forced her to wear the phony bomb. She was convicted and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 6.

Menchaca and Perez pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Two cars used to move the money were later connected to Vega's parents. Witnesses also said that Vega had bragged about the robbery.

Vega's attorney said his client was framed by two friends over a business deal gone wrong.

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