LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The man accused of masterminding a bank robbery by strapping a fake explosive device to his girlfriend, a bank employee, pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday.
Reyes “Ray” Vega, a 34-year-old former firearms instructor, is accused of orchestrating the September robbery at Bank of America in East Los Angeles.
The incident brought the bomb squad to the scene after Vega’s girlfriend, who worked as an assistant branch manager, appeared to be strapped with an explosive device.
Vega and two co-defendants, Richard Menchaca and Bryan Perez, were indicted on federal charges of bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery, and aiding and abetting each other by force, violence and intimidation.
Prosecutors allege that Vega arranged for the woman, whose name was not released, to wear a fake explosive device so that she would be seen as a hostage in the heist.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Rhoades declined to comment when asked if Vega’s girlfriend – identified in court documents by the initials ‘A.B.’ – would be charged in the crime.
According to court papers, the woman reportedly told authorities that two masked men had abducted her from her Huntington Park home.
Rhoades alleged that Vega had contacted witnesses in the case, had no fixed address and rarely stayed in the same place more than two nights in a row. He also alleged that Vega had “multiple girlfriends.”
Vega, who was arrested after the robbery and released on $100,000 bail, was re-arrested May 17 after traveling to Atlanta.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen J. Hillman ordered Vega jailed pending trial, calling him “a clear danger.”
A trial date is set for July 23. Vega and his two co-defendants face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
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