Raonel Valdez Valhuerdis was found last week hiding in bushes near
the Guatemalan border outside the small Belize town of Benque Viejo,
according to David Bolton, a private investigator contracted to find
Valdez by the owner of the gold, Bolivian-based export company Quri
"Immigration (authorities) there apprehended him because of his
passport, but he was acting suspicious, so they Googled his name,"
Upon finding Valdez's wanted poster online, the Belizean authorities
contacted Bolton, who put them in touch with the U.S. Marshals
"He has been arrested. I can confirm that we are working there
(Belize)," said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service. Valdez
could face charges of armed robbery and fleeing prosecution.
On the morning of October 12, 2012, authorities say Valdez robbed a
courier at gunpoint in the wealthy Miami suburb of Coral Gables,
stealing two suitcases carrying $2.8 million worth of gold nuggets
bound for a nearby refinery.
During the time of the robbery, Valdez was wearing a court-mandated
ankle-monitoring device. Valdez was later apprehended and charged,
but Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Leon Firtel allowed him to be released
with another ankle monitor after posting a $75,000 bond.
Days later, Valdez stole a speedboat in the Florida Keys after
jettisoning the latest ankle monitor, Bolton said. At the time,
Valdez is alleged to have been a member of a ring of Cuban criminals
who operated marijuana grow-houses and stole speedboats to transport
immigrants from the island nation to Florida, he added.
[to top of second column]
Valdez came to Miami from Cuba in 2005. Law enforcement records show
he was convicted in 2007 of marijuana possession and released on
parole. In 2008, he was arrested on separate occasions for
possessing 85 grams of methamphetamine hidden in his car and
assaulting security guards at a Home Depot while trying to steal an
$18 pair of garden shears.
While on bond in 2008, Valdez fled to Mexico, Bolton said.
Bolton also provided Reuters an image of a passport purportedly held
by Valdes at the time of his arrest in Belize. The passport raised
suspicions with Belize law enforcement because there was no entry
stamp to the Central American country, he said.
To date, the gold has not been recovered. "We still don't understand
how a person with such a record and after robbing more than $2
million benefited with such a low bond," said Guy Vargas, the
president of Quri Wasi, the export company, in an email.
However, prosecutors will not have the benefit of testimony from the
only witness to the caper. George Villegas, the gold courier, died
of a heart attack in July 2012.
(Editing by David Adams and Lisa Shumaker)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.