Fugitive in Coral Gables gold heist captured in Belize

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

A Miami man on the lam for more than a year for a $2.8 million gold heist has been recaptured while trying to cross the border from Guatemala into Belize.

Raonel Valdez Valhuerdis was caught last week, according to David Bolton, a Coral Gables private detective whose Internet wanted poster alerted Belizian authorities who stopped the fugitive.

“He smashed his cellphone on the ground and told the border guards, ‘I’m tired of this. I’m tired of running. Just kill me. I want to die,’ ” Bolton said.

But when Valdez will be extradited to Miami remains to be seen.

Prosecutors believe Valdez, 35, was behind the stick-up of a courier for the Bolivian-based export company, Quri Wasi, which buys gold from small businesses in La Paz, then melts it down and sells it to South Florida refineries.

According to police, Valdez and two other men in October 2012 accosted the courier in an elevator of a Coral Gables apartment building, stealing two rolling suitcases filled with 110 pounds of gold flakes bound for Republic Metals in Opa-locka. The 79 percent pure gold was slated to be melted down, then resold for jewelry or electronic parts.

At the time, Valdez was wearing a GPS ankle monitor while he was awaiting trial on charges of attacking his ex-girlfriend.

After his arrest, his lawyer asked a Miami-Dade judge to release him from jail, again on an ankle monitor. Prosecutors put up a fierce objection, but the judge agreed. He was let out on $75,000 bond.

“I call it the way I see it,” the judge said. “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. OK.”

Several months later, jailers lost track of the signal and he had been a fugitive ever since.

“Ever since Raonel Valdez Valhuerdis received a bond despite the prosecutor’s objections, we have been looking forward to his return to Miami so that we may bring this case to trial,” said Ed Griffith, a State Attorney’s spokesman.

But even if Valdez is returned to Miami, the case will soon fall apart, said his defense attorney, Alex Michaels. The reason: the chief witness, the courier who was robbed, has since passed away of natural causes and cannot testify in court.

“He’ll be a free man,” Michaels said.

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