Transcript for Bomb Bank Heist Turns Out to Be a Hoax
Reporter: When we first met assistant bank manager Aurora barerra -- There was two men inside my garage and they threatened me with a gun and they strapped me -- Reporter: -- She had a bomb strapped to her. That's her walking through the bank with the device under her shirt. Two mysterious robbers had kidnapped her and had forced her into looting more than a half million bucks from her own bank. Forced to open the vault, throwing bags of cash out the back door. Reporter: In addition to swarming media coverage, local detectives, prosecutors and now the FBI are all involved in this bizarre case. Bank robbery. Bomb. Kidnapping. You got a trifecta there, right? Reporter: But you can bet the story's just starting when the cops begin pressing Barrera. Looking for answers, they find only questions and doubts. I want you to make sure that you're thinking of all your senses. Reporter: Red flag number one, barerra's demeanor on bank surveillance. At times she buttons her jacket or kind of tries to potentially hold the device up as if it may be falling off. A reasonable person that would think they had a device strapped on them that was gonna blow up. You'd think she'd be on eggshells the entire time. Right, and she wasn't. Reporter: Red flag number two, Barrera's long on dramatics, short on details. What did you hear? What did you see? What did you smell? She couldn't answer those questions for critical points in the timeline. It was like pulling teeth. One of the things that we noticed right away was that she had a tough time calling the device a bomb. She was very reluctant to say anything more than "That thing." The other guy gave me the -- the pole thing. He's the one that had that thing. He was holding the thing. Reporter: And the bomb, as we know, turned out to be a hoax, leading to red flag number three. Okay, so you're kind of holding it -- Yeah. -- In place with your right arm and then -- I'm just putting some straps of tape there. Reporter: Barrera says the electrical tape used to attach the device was torn with her own hands. The tape stretches when you try to tear it. Usually you need scissors to cut that sort of tape, which would create clean edges. And that seems to be the case in these photographs. And it would be very difficult to hold a device, pull the shirt up, tear or cut tape while being held at gunpoint. Reporter: And finally, red flag number four. We stuffed the bag with mostly singles, so -- Reporter: Instead of filling the bags with singles as she claims, Barrera went straight for her bank's big bills. What you can see is that Aurora, in loading up the money, took only the large bills and left behind the ones -- if it was your bank and you -- you were trying to protect it, you'd think you'd start with the ones and leave the hundreds behind. Reporter: But all of these red flags are just circumstantial evidence. The license plate of the getaway car is not. Watch, right after berrara drops the money out the bank's back door, her co-worker rushes to look out a side window, glimpsing the license plate and giving investigators a solid break in the case. The car is linked to Barrera's boyfriend, ray Vega, an ex-marine and a firearms instructor. Vega is cocksure of himself and a tad too angry when the cops call him in for questioning. I'm pretty pissed off. You could have called me, man. I got hooked in front of a bunch of people. That's really jacked up, Joe. He was very agitated. He was angry at the fact that he was being investigated for being part of the robbery. I may be a man- Or a dirt bag, but I'm not a bank robber. Reporter: Try telling that to your accomplice, Brian Perez, who spoke to us in an exclusive interview. How would you describe Vega? An intimidating guy. Vega just came off as, like, a James bond kind of wannabe. You look into his eyes and you kind of realize that he might not be totally sane. Reporter: Perez, who will later become one of the chief witnesses against both Vega and barerra, laid out the whole heist to us while driving through the key east L.A. Locations. Basic plan was he had a girlfriend that worked inside, was gonna be a bomb on her chest, she's gonna throw money outside of a door, someone was supposed to pick it up and drive off with it. What did you think? Crazy. In my mind, I was like, "Well, this guy's nuts." And yet you agreed to it. I did agree to it. He threatened me he could put a bomb in -- in my car, or my parents' car. Reporter: Fearing Vega, Perez continues with the plan. That's him rendezvousing with Vega in a parking lot near the bank. Later, Perez transfers the loot to this suitcase and heads to a ramada inn seven miles away from where the heist went down. Here, Perez, Vega and the driver of the first getaway car, Richard menchacca were to begin splitting the spoils. Vega shows up. He enters through the door right there. First thing, he looks, he doesn't even look at us, he looks at the money on the table. He just says, "I can't believe it, you know. We got away with it." Is that what he says? Yeah. Is that what he says? Reporter: They all might have gone scot-free if not for ray Vega's king size ego. Even in front of the cops, humility is not one of his strong suits. In fact, he's so confident in himself that he -- he's basically begging you to go look for information on him. Yeah, he's filling holes before we even find them for us. Reporter: Like this. If you guys can pull up my phone, you guys can see the history. And you guys can see where it pinged off the cell phone towers wherever the hell I was. Reporter: They did and he wasn't. His phone was using cell towers 20 miles away when he was supposed to have spent all night at this days inn. I do think he believed that he could convince us that his story was true. Enough so that we wouldn't look into it further. Reporter: Even after being arrested and out on bond, Vega couldn't help himself. In a vain attempt to buddy up to the cops, he calls detective settles with -- get this -- a Christmas voice message. We are on the opposite sides of the Trench right now man. Regardless, merry Christmas. Be safe and maybe we can End this -- so that we can go have a beer. Reporter: At trial, Brian Perez' testimony against his former accomplices proved crucial. He was sentenced to five years probation. So was Barrera the master mind of this heist or just one of the players? She walked into the bank armed with a hoax explosive. I would always think that Aurora planned everything inside the bank, because she knew the bank she knew how to get into the vault. The money made it out the side door of the bank, which was the ultimate goal. So to that extent Aurora pulled it off? She did. Reporter: In the end, while the criminals were caught, where's the money? If anyone has the answer to that, they can feel free to give our office a call. Reporter: As for the bomb squad guys who were willing to risk their lives to save Aurora Barrera, I couldn't help asking. When you learned ultimately that she was part of the hoax, what went through your heads? It was one of those moments where you -- you think you've seen it all. And then you find out that you
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