A man who stole roughly $4.3 million from an Anchorage bank in 2011 and was caught days later traveling in Mexico with the cash has been extradited back to the United States, according to federal prosecutors.
Gerardo Adan Cazarez Valenzuela, also known as Gary Cazarez, had been serving time in Mexico for a conviction similar to money laundering, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska said in a release.
On Thursday, Valenzuela, 33, will have his first court appearance in Anchorage. Valenzuela faces one count of theft of bank funds, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Valenzuela was a cash vault services manager for KeyBank when, according to federal prosecutors, he stole millions in cash from a KeyBank location in 2011. A Daily News report at the time details how authorities believe Valenzuela stole the money and his route to Mexico before his arrest at a security checkpoint.
On July 29, 2011, Valenzuela walked into the bank vault pushing a rolling cart with three large computer boxes, the bank's security footage showed. He turned off the lights and started putting cash into the boxes, according to the report, citing an FBI special agent's affidavit filed in federal court.
He drove home with the boxes and transferred the cash into several suitcases, according to the report. He then took a private charter flight, arranged two days earlier, and flew to Seattle.
Once there, Valenzuela got into a cab and asked the driver if he knew where Valenzuela could buy a gun, according to the report. The driver took Valenzuela to an "unknown place," the report said, where Valenzuela bought a handgun and AK-47 with $4,000 in cash.
Valenzuela and his girlfriend then borrowed a car from her sister and drove to a hotel in Auburn, Washington, the report said. Security cameras showed the couple taking multiple suitcases into their room. When they checked out the next day, they bought a Ford Fusion from an Auburn car dealership and drove south to California.
On July 31, the couple decided to drive to Mexico to visit the girlfriend's uncle. But the uncle said that the Ford Fusion couldn't handle the terrain, and suggested that they buy bus tickets to Sonora, Mexico, instead, the report said.
The bus was pulled over for screening at a security checkpoint, and the couple was flagged. Valenzuela told his girlfriend they "were in serious trouble," according to the report.
Valenzuela asked to be taken to a private room to open his luggage, where Mexican authorities found guns, ammunition and roughly $3.8 million in cash, the report said. He was arrested in Mexico on Aug. 2, 2011. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, but got credits toward early release, prosecutors said.
Back in Anchorage, when the bank opened up for business on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, employees were unable to open the vault. When they finally did, according to the report, they discovered $4.3 million in cash was missing.