Alaska bank employee stole $4.3 million from an Anchorage bank, almost got away with it

Millions in cash stolen from an Anchorage bank by Gerardo Valenzuela, recovered by Mexican authorities after a random search. Federal prosecutors evidence photo.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A man who stole over $4 million from an Anchorage bank did so with an ice cream social and a private jet, according to a report filed by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Prosecutors say he was in Mexico with the money before the bank even knew it was gone, and he almost got away with the heist, if not for a random check of a bus he was on by Mexican authorities.

The suspect, 33-year-old Gerardo Adan Cazarez Valenzuela, known as Gary Cazarez, was charged in the July 2011 theft and will be sentenced later this month.

Valenzuela was a cash vault services manager for KeyBank in Anchorage, and targeted the vault from the inside, making off with $4.3 million in cash before being randomly stopped at a checkpoint in Mexico, where he was searched and arrested.

On the day of his theft in 2011, Valenzuela told the branch manager he was going to "organize an ice cream social for bank customers," the Alaska U.S. Attorney's Office stated in the sentencing memo.

"This gave the defendant an excuse to stay late as he cleaned up from the ice cream social. Late at night and without dual controls in place, the defendant was able to access the vault without another employee present. His plan to falsely train new employees worked," it stated.

According to the memo, Valenzuela boxed up $4.3 million in cash in the vault, rolled it out of the vault to his car in the parking lot, and loaded the money to his car.

From there, he took the haul, contained in three computer-size boxes filled with cash, and brought it onto a private jet, which he had chartered for himself the day before.

Chartering that jet cost $24,000, which was paid for by Valenzuela, federal prosecutors say, with $30,000 he allegedly stole just the day before from Keybank.

He flew to Seattle on the jet, and then along with his girlfriend, drove to Tijuana, Mexico with guns he reportedly had his brother buy for him.

He continued south on a bus and was stopped at a random checkpoint, where he was arrested for money and gun smuggling.

Authorities say $3.8 million were recovered in Mexico, and another $500,000, part of a "fail-safe plan," was stashed with relatives in Washington.

Prior to his extradition back to the U.S., Valenzuela was serving a sentence in Mexico for smuggling cash and firearms, charges he was found guilty of there following his arrest.

In federal court documents filed in his case, Valenzuela said he apologized for his crimes, and stated that seven years of incarceration in "the filthiest place imaginable" he was able to reflect on his life, and called those years a "wake up call" for him. He stated that the jail time he spent there should be considered a thorough punishment.

"I obviously suck at being a criminal and know that any illegal activity will land me back in prison," he said. Of the massive sum, Valenzuela said that the bulk had been recovered, and some had been spent on his father's medical expenses, who has since passed away.

However, prosecutors didn't agree with his assertion that the time spent in Mexican prison was a punishment for his crime.

"Absent a random search at an interior Mexican checkpoint, the defendant would be sipping margaritas and enjoying his millions in stolen money hidden safely from law inforcement (sic) outside the United States. That he now seeks credit toward his sentence in this district based on his choice to flee to Mexico is wildly inappropriate," they stated.

The Alaska U.S. Attorney's Office stated in the memo that Valenzuela should spend nine years in prison, five years on supervised release, and pay $535,680 in restitution to KeyBank.

Valenzuela is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

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Gerardo Valenzuela, wheeling millions in stolen cash out of a Keybank vault where he worked as a manager. Federal prosecutors evidence photo.
Two guns recovered in Gerardo Valenzuela's possession, after being arrested in Mexico for reportedly stealing over $4 million from an Anchorage bank. Federal prosecutors evidence photo.

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