LOS ANGELES — A man was charged Monday with a $565,000 bank robbery in which his girlfriend — an assistant bank manager — was forced to strap on a fake bomb so she would seem to be a hostage and could take the money.
The woman said she was abducted in September from her home and forced to put on what she believed was a real bomb. Her abductors told her if she didn’t help steal the money the bomb would explode, according to the indictment.
She went to her Bank of America branch in Huntington Park, got an employee to help her take the money from a vault and left it outside, where the robbers picked it up and fled, authorities said. The money has not been recovered.
According to the indictment, Reyes “Ray” Vega, 34, used two cars registered to his father for the robbery. He and two other men were charged with bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery, and aiding and abetting each other by force, violence and intimidation.
The woman, identified only as “A.B.,” was not charged. It’s unclear whether she had any knowledge of the plot, and federal officials declined to provide details beyond the indictment, citing an ongoing investigation.
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 authorities say met 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 and the whereabouts of the stolen cash, Rhoades said.
Bank of America offered a $10,000 reward Monday for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved.