WASHINGTON, D.C. – The international manhunt for a man wanted for allegedly committing armed robbery in Coral Gables, Florida, and making off with more than 100 pounds of gold has ended. The fugitive was captured and is back on U.S. soil after being deported from Belize.
Raonel Valdez-Valhuerdis, 34, was detained Feb. 18, 2014, in Belize after he was stopped by Belize immigration officials while crawling through some bushes at the Guatemala/Belize border. Valdez had a Cuban passport in his possession, but the passport did not bear an immigration stamp documenting his entry into that country.
The immigration officers quickly realized not only did they stop a subject from entering their country illegally, but they had also captured an international fugitive wanted for allegedly committing the biggest gold heist ever in Florida history.
“Working in conjunction with the government of Belize, we have brought back to South Florida a violent fugitive who will be prosecuted,” said Amos Rojas, U.S. marshal for the southern district of Florida.
On Oct. 12, 2012, an employee of a Bolivian export company walked out of his apartment building in Coral Gables, only to be met by a man thought to be Valdez and two other unidentified men. It is charged that Valdez pointed a gun at the employee and said, “We are only here for the gold.” Valdez is alleged to have struck the victim in the face and held the victim at gunpoint while his two accomplices grabbed two suitcases filled with more than 100 pounds of gold flakes valued at approximately $2.8 million.
At the time of the armed robbery, Valdez was wearing a court ordered GPS ankle monitor as a result of a previous arrest.
Coral Gables police detectives investigating the gold heist received a tip that Valdez was the mastermind behind the gold robbery. Detectives analyzed the GPS locations on Valdez’s ankle monitor that confirmed Valdez was at the scene of the crime at the time the victim was robbed. A further analysis of the GPS locations for weeks prior to the armed gold robbery showed that Valdez appeared to be conducting surveillance of the gold broker’s residence.
According to an Oct. 22, 2012, police report, the victim positively identified Valdez from a photo lineup. That same day, Coral Gables police detectives arrested Valdez. Subsequently, a Miami-Dade County circuit judge released Valdez on a $75,000 bond. Valdez failed to appear for future court hearings, and an arrest warrant was issued March 20, 2013, charging him with armed robbery with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, grand theft of more than $100,000 and altering/tampering with an electronic monitor. Another arrest warrant was issued April 4, 2013, charging Valdez with probation violation.
The Cuban passport in Valdez’s possession was issued Dec. 28, 2012, two months after the fugitive is alleged to have committed the armed robbery. The passport was issued in Washington, D.C.