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3 charged in LA-area bank robbery

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POSTED May 20, 2013 9:11 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man has been charged with a Los Angeles-area bank robbery last summer in which his girlfriend — an assistant bank manager — reported being forced to wear what she thought was a bomb strapped to her midsection.

Reyes "Ray" Vega, 34, and two other men were charged Monday with bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery, and aiding and abetting each other by force, violence and intimidation, authorities said.

The assistant manager, who has not been charged, said she was abducted in September and two robbers forced her to wear what she thought was a bomb. She went to work, took $565,000 in cash and tossed it outside.

Masked gunmen fled with the cash. Explosives experts determined the device was not a real bomb.

According to the indictment unsealed Monday, Vega used two cars registered to his father for the robbery in Huntington Park. Vega's girlfriend is referred to as "A.B." in the indictment.

It was unclear whether she had any knowledge of the plot, and federal officials declined to provide details beyond the indictment, citing an ongoing investigation.

The indictment states, "Vega arranged for A.B. to go to the bank wearing an item resembling an explosive device to make it appear that A.B. was a hostage in a bank robbery and the purported explosive device would detonate unless an employee at the bank helped A.B. remove money from the bank's vault."

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

The two other defendants, Richard Menchaca, 36, and Bryan Perez, 27, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Los Angeles, according to their attorneys. Perez was released on a $40,000 bond with electronic monitoring and travel restrictions, said his attorney, Jerome Haig.

The indictment alleges that Menchaca picked up the cash placed outside the bank's side door and gave it to Perez, who is accused of meeting Vega at a motel later that day to split the cash.

If convicted, the men face a maximum of 25 years in prison, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Rhoades.

More people are believed to have knowledge of the robbery or the whereabouts of the still-missing stolen cash, Rhoades said.

Bank of America offered a $10,000 reward Monday for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved in the crime.

 

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