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Published On: Tue, Apr 30th, 2019

Vault Manager, Gerardo Velenzuela Sentenced to 10 Years for Stealing $4 Million

U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that Gerardo Adan Cazarez Valenzuela, a/k/a “Gary Cazarez,” 34, of Anchorage, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Burgess to serve 10 years in prison, with no credit for seven years he served in a Mexican prison.  In January 2019, Valenzuela pleaded guilty to theft of bank funds, as charged in a 2011 superseding indictment.

According to court documents, on or about July 29, 2011, Valenzuela was the Vault Manager for KeyBank when he stole approximately $4.3 million dollars in U.S. Currency from KeyBank in Anchorage, and then flew in a chartered jet to Washington, bought a car, obtained an AK-47 for protection and drove to Mexico.  He mailed his and his girlfriend’s cell phones to Florida and New York to throw off investigators.  The investigation revealed that Valenzuela’s motive to rob his employer was his concern that Keybank was going to make his position obsolete and he would be out of a job.

Photo/Thomas Breher

Months prior to his theft, Valenzuela told his girlfriend that he could rob the bank noting that the bank had video surveillance, but no physical surveillance at that time.  In June 2011, he started to put his plan into action, which began with requesting that his brother obtain a firearm for him.  On July 8, 2011, Valenzuela falsely trained new employees on vault procedures, effectively removing dual controls over the vault and laying the groundwork for his ability to steal $4.3 million a few weeks later.

On July 26, 2011, Valenzuela purchased an airplane ticket for his girlfriend from Anchorage to Seattle.  Two days later, he then stole $30,000 from Keybank, which he used $24,000 to rent a private jet for himself to make his escape the next day.  On the day of his theft, July 29, 2011, Valenzuela told the branch manager he was going to organize an ice cream social for bank customers, giving him an excuse to stay late as he cleaned up.  Late at night and without dual controls in place, Valenzuela was able to access the vault without another employee present.  He boxed up $4.3 million in cash, rolled it out of the vault to his car in the parking lot, and loaded the money into his car.  Valenzuela drove to where the private jet was waiting for him in Anchorage and he flew to Seattle.

Valenzuela had set the timer on the vault lock for the maximum time allowable, giving him six days to escape to Mexico.  By the time Keybank discovered his theft, Valenzuela and his girlfriend were already in Mexico; however, Valenzuela was arrested by Mexican authorities on Aug. 2, 2011, when a random search of his luggage at a checkpoint revealed $3.8 million in cash, firearms, and ammunition.

Cazarez was charged and convicted in Mexico of criminal offenses analogous to money laundering and illegal possession of firearms for smuggling the cash and firearms into Mexico.  After serving a term of seven years in prison for his Mexican conviction, Cazarez was extradited to the U.S. for the crimes charged in the superseding indictment.

Chief Judge Burgess noted that the most important sentencing factors in this case were the “magnitude of the crime” and Valenzuela’s lack of candor with the court.  At the sentencing hearing, evidence was presented that Valenzuela had executed a “fail safe plan” that included stashing $500,000 in Washington before he fled to Mexico so that if he were caught he would still have money when he was released.  That money has still not been recovered.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of this case.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in the case, as did the government of Mexico.

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