LOS ANGELES (AP) — FBI agents and police looking for a stash of cash stolen by armored car drivers more than a year ago struck pay dirt and unearthed more than $600,000 in buried booty outside Los Angeles.
Wads of $100 and $20 bills covered in plastic and bound with duct tape were found in a plastic bin in the Fontana yard of one of the Loomis armored car drivers who admitted his role in the theft, Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Rhoades said.
Cesar Yanez, 38, is serving four years and nine months in prison after pleading guilty in August to conspiracy and bank robbery for the 2014 inside job.
Yanez and his partner, Aldo Vega, 28, of Pomona, stole $1 million in cash from Bank of America and dropped it in a trash can outside a restaurant last year, Rhoades said.
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Yanez’s wife, Leticia Yanez, then picked up the loot and brought it home, the prosecutor said. A family friend, Jovita Guzman, served as an intermediary later and delivered some of the money to Vega.
Vega pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing. The two women have pleaded not guilty and face trial in March.
Leticia Yanez was home when agents and Los Angeles police served a search warrant Wednesday morning to dig up the yard, Rhoades said.
Defense lawyer Humberto Diaz said “she had no idea about that money.” He said cash that agents previously seized from a safe in the house was family savings.
That previous seizure was one factor that led officers to search underground.
The $90,000 found in the safe was wrapped in plastic “in a way you wouldn’t be storing it in a temperature-controlled house,” Rhoades said.
Agents had special technology to locate the loot, but it wasn’t needed. After digging up three trees, an agent noticed something unusual about the way the grass was growing.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said one agent put his prior landscaping experience to work and they dug with shovels.
The buried treasure was only a foot beneath the surface.