Cuban gold heist suspect collared in Belize

gold_smuggling_527184585FLORIDA. United States, Thursday March 6, 2014 – After being out on the lam for 14 months, Raonel Valdez Valhuerdis, a Cuban man accused of a US$2.8 million Miami gold heist, has been collared in Belize.

According to David Bolton, a private investigator contracted to find Valdez by the owner of the loot, Bolivian-based export company Quri Wasi, the fugitive was discovered near the Guatemalan border outside the small Belize town of Benque Viejo.

“Immigration there apprehended him because of his passport, but he was acting suspicious, so they Googled his name,” Bolton said.

The passport raised suspicions with Belize law enforcement because there was no entry stamp to the country.

The Belizean authorities went on to find Valdez’s wanted poster online and contacted Bolton, who put them in touch with the US Marshals Service.

The caper dates back to October 2012 when Valdez allegedly robbed a courier at gunpoint in Coral Gables, Florida, and escaped with two suitcases containing US$2.8 million worth of gold nuggets bound for a nearby refinery.

Astonishingly, Valdez was wearing a court-mandated ankle-monitoring device at the time of the robbery.

He was subsequently apprehended and charged, but in a surprise ruling a Miami-Dade Circuit Judge allowed him to be released with another ankle monitor after posting a $75,000 bond.

Valdez promptly ditched the new ankle monitor and stole a speedboat in the Florida Keys.

He is said to have been a member of a Cuban crime ring that operated marijuana grow-houses and stole speedboats to transport immigrants from the communist Caribbean country to Florida.

Law enforcement records show that Valdez was convicted of marijuana possession just two years after his 2005 arrival from Cuba and released on parole.

In 2008, he was arrested on separate occasions for possessing 85 grams of methamphetamine hidden in his car and assaulting security guards at a Home Depot while trying to steal an $18 pair of garden shears. He reportedly fled to Mexico while on bond.

As for the latest caper, the gold has not been recovered. And in what appears to be the latest chapter of a comedy of errors, although Valdez could face charges of armed robbery and fleeing prosecution, prosecutors will not have the benefit of testimony from the only witness to the gig.

George Villegas, the gold courier, died of a heart attack in 2012. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)