LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The assistant manager of an East Los Angeles bank charged with helping rob the bank by wearing a fake explosive device, plans to argue that her then-boyfriend tricked her into allegedly participating in the heist, according to court papers obtained Friday.
Aurora Barrera, 33, of Huntington Park is charged with conspiracy to commit bank robbery and bank robbery in an indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Reyes “Ray” Vega, the ex- boyfriend, faces the same charges.
Barrera’s lawyers unsuccessfully lobbied a judge to order separate trials for the couple. Her lawyer’s laid out the fundamentals in their case.
“Barrera’s defense will center upon blaming co-defendant Reyes Vega, in causing her to be an unknowing and unwitting participant in his `kidnapping’ and `bank robbery’ scheme,” according to the motion to separate the defendants.
“More particularly, Barrera’s defense will target Vega at trial for, among other things, being a `pathological liar’ … constantly manipulating others to his own benefit, repeatedly preying on women, dating several women at the same time, promising marriage to several women at the same time, promising engagement for marriage to several women at the same time; all in his never ending intent to manipulate, rob, steal, and cheat,” according to the document.
“Barrera intends to present evidence of Vega’s shenanigans in order to show that she was only one of Vega’s many victims of his never-ending schemes,” attorneys wrote.
However, U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real rejected the motion to separate the defendants, writing Thursday that “Barrera has not met her burden of showing that a joint trial will manifestly prejudice her.”
Two co-defendants pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Prosecutors contend that Vega, a former firearms instructor, was the mastermind of the September 2012 heist, which prompted a bomb squad to race to the scene to deal with what turned out to be a fake explosive device strapped to Barrera.
About two percent of the nearly $500,000 that was stolen has been recovered, authorities said.
Vega was indicted in May along with Richard Menchaca and Bryan Perez — both of whom have pleaded guilty. Barrera was charged five months later.
On the morning of the robbery on Sept. 5, 2012, Vega arranged for Barrera to wear a device resembling an explosive on her body so she would appear to be a hostage, prosecutors allege.
Explosives experts who responded to the call determined the “bomb” was a phony. According to the indictment, the device was used so it would appear that explosives would be detonated unless an employee of the bank assisted the assistant manager in accessing the vault.
Menchaca picked up cash placed outside of the bank by Barrera, and the three men later met at a hotel to split the proceeds, according to the indictment.
Following the crime, Barrera reportedly told authorities that two masked men had abducted her from her Huntington Park home. She said the supposed kidnappers ordered her to throw money from a back door of the bank, according to federal prosecutors.
Barrera is on medical leave from the bank.
Trial for the pair is set for March. If convicted of the charges, Barrera and Vega each face up to 30 years in federal prison, officials said.
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