SAN JACINTO, Calif. -- An alleged accomplice in a $1.5 million heist at the Soboba Indian Casino was arrested Friday, but the casino employee accused of masterminding the plot and carrying it out remained at large.
Eric Alan Aguilera, 23, of Hemet, was taken into custody this morning after a search of his apartment allegedly turned up $500,000 of the stolen cash, authorities said.
Aguilera allegedly drove the black Ford Mustang that was used in Thursday's heist and belonged to the principal suspect, Rolando L. Ramos, said Assistant Sheriff Pat McManus.
"We believe he was in the car the whole time," McManus said. "The information we received indicates he dropped Ramos off (at the casino) and drove around in circles in the neighborhood until he got the signal to come back."
McManus said Aguilera was identified as a suspect during interviews Thursday with Ramos' friends, relatives and co-workers.
"During the interview process, he (Aguilera) made some admissions that led to his arrest," McManus said.
Investigators believe Ramos, 25, and Aguilera divided the $1.5 million taken during the casino robbery and then went their separate ways, he said.
Ramos, who worked at the casino for two years as a technician on its video surveillance systems, allegedly disabled several security cameras before pulling off the heist.
The suspect had an unarmed security guard and a security guard trainee escort him into the casino vault before daybreak yesterday on the pretense of working on equipment, according to sheriff's investigators.
Once inside the vault, he allegedly brandished a handgun and threatened several employees before bagging the cash, according to McManus.
Sheriff's deputies called to the casino at 23333 Soboba Road about 5:15 a.m. had to force their way into two vaults, McManus said.
One of the vaults had three people inside who had been bound and gagged with tape, he said, including one victim who had been pepper-sprayed.
Seven others in a second vault had been told to sit quietly on the floor while the suspect took the cash, McManus said.
"They were all pretty shaken up but otherwise OK," he said.
Ramos' whereabouts remain unknown, but investigators believe he is still in California, according to McManus.
"He didn't run for the border as soon as he left the casino," McManus said. "He's got family members outside the country, but we still think he's in the state."
U.S. air marshals and the Border Patrol were alerted to be on the lookout for the suspect, who reportedly has relatives in both Mexico and the Philippines.
Sheriff's officials released a photograph of Ramos, but asked the public to call 911 and keep their distance if they spot him because he is considered armed and dangerous.
Last December, Ramos pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to 36 months probation, which he was still serving, according to court records.
Aguilera was booked into Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on suspicion of kidnapping, false imprisonment, robbery and battery, according to jail records. He was being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
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