Former bank worker in Alaska sentenced in theft of $4.3M


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A daring Alaska bank employee who boxed up $4.3 million in cash, rolled it to his car and flew it to Seattle was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for bank theft.

Gerardo Valenzuela, 34, also known as Gary Cazarez, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty in January.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess gave him no credit for the seven years he served in a Mexico prison after his conviction there for smuggling cash, guns and ammunition, U.S. prosecutors said.

Valenzuela was extradited to Alaska in September.

He was 26 in 2011 when he worked as a cash vault services manager for KeyBank in Anchorage. At the time of the theft, investigators said, he was worried that the bank was going to make his job obsolete and he could be terminated.

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In the week before the theft, he bought an airline ticket for his girlfriend to fly to Seattle and then stole $30,000 from Keybank, using $24,000 to reserve a private jet.

Bank policy called for having dual controls over the vault, but Valenzuela ignored the rule while training new employees, prosecutors said.

On the day of the theft, a Friday, he told the branch manager he was going to organize an ice cream social for bank customers and would stay late to clean up.

Late that night, without dual controls in place, Valenzuela was able to enter the vault, take the cash and board the private plane to Seattle, authorities said.

He set the timer on the vault lock for the maximum time allowed, giving himself six days to escape.

In Seattle, he bought a car and an AK-47 rifle then drove with his girlfriend to Mexico.

The theft was not discovered until they crossed the border, but the caper came to a quick conclusion on Aug. 2, 2011, less than a week after it occurred.

During a random search of Valenzuela’s luggage at a checkpoint, Mexican authorities found the rifle, ammunition and $3.8 million in cash.

During sentencing, Judge Burgess cited the magnitude of the crime and Valenzuela’s lack of candor with the court, prosecutors said.

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Valenzuela had stashed $500,000 in Washington state in case he was caught, prosecutors said. That money has not been recovered.

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