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Dramatic new details emerge in heist from armored-car firm

July 8, 2011 |  1:48 pm

Armored car robbery in South El Monte

Dramatic new details are emerging in the takeover robbery of an armored-vehicle security company that one law enforcement official called "one of the biggest robberies we've seen this year."

Stealthy robbers sneaked  through the roof of the company in South El Monte on Thursday night, slipped down a rope, blindfolded and tied up its employees and stole perhaps more than $1 million destined for many of ATMs in the Los Angeles County region, investigators said Friday.

“We don’t exactly how much was taken at this point. They believe  in excess of $1 million,” said Sheriff’s  Lt.  Kent Wegener of the Major Crimes Bureau. “This is one of the biggest robberies we’ve seen this year, even compared to the jewelry heists. It appears it has all the hallmarks of a well-planned robbery at this point.”

The three robbers peeled back the roof of the nondescript Commonwealth International building, a company owned and operated by current and former police, in a warehouse district of industrial South El Monte about 7:30 p.m., officials said.

Wegener said they then dropped down a rope and  weaved their way through a complex of vaults and rooms inside the building that handles cash for hundreds of automatic teller machines across the L.A. region.

They first jumped a manager, immediately blindfolding him and binding his hands before he could resist, Wegener said. They then grabbed the two other employees. Again they quickly blindfolded and bound them before leaving them and the manager in a safe room.

“They came upon the victims so fast they say they never got a look at them. They just knew they were three men,” Wegener said.

With full control of the complex on Barringer Street, the men set about loading cash from the main vault into a getaway vehicle. “They used plastic tubs from the business to haul the money from inside,” Wegener said. “Most of the cash was probably in small notes for ATMs. They move a lot of money to ATMs,” he said. Insurance assessors and auditors are already working to determine the loss.

The three suspects took about 20 minutes dragging the cash out a side exit to their unknown getaway vehicle before fleeing, he said. None of the employees was injured in the takeover robbery, investigators said.

At about 8:45 p.m., someone associated with the company contacted the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's Temple Station alerting them to the robbery.

A sheriff’s forensic team was dusting for fingerprints and looking for the suspects’ DNA on items they handled or came into contact with.

Wegener said the complex had security cameras inside. Hoping to glean some new information, major crimes detectives who are veterans of larger heists are reinterviewing the three workers, he said.

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Photo: Site of the armored vehicle complex robbery in South El Monte. Credit: KTLA

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