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Robbers in $1-million heist used ruse to reach vault, sources say

July 12, 2011 |  7:43 am


The three robbers who broke through the roof of an armored car business in South El Monte and took  more than $1 million last week used a ruse to get into the vault, law enforcement sources said.

The robbers allegedly got the manager of the business to lure two employees into the vault by claiming there had been a false alarm.

The sources said the robbers claimed to have come to the office because of the false alarm and that police were arriving to check out the situation. It's unclear if they were posing as police.

Officials described the heist as one of the largest in years.

About 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the robbers peeled back the roof of the Commonwealth International building in the 12300 block of Barringer Street. The company, owned and operated by current and former law enforcement officers, handles cash for hundreds of automated teller machines across the L.A. region.

Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Ken Wegener said the robbers dropped down a rope and wove their way through a complex of vaults and safe rooms inside the building. They first jumped a manager, blindfolding him and binding his hands, Wegener said. They forced him to summon two other employees, who were then also blindfolded and bound. The robbers took about 20 minutes dragging cash from the main vault out a side exit to a car, Wegener said

Wegener, of the sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau, said the company had security cameras inside. But sources familiar with the investigation said the robbers may have accessed the camera equipment and removed any record of their presence.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: An armed guard watches as sacks containing valuables are moved into a truck from a security facility that was robbed last week. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times