After a year-long escape overseas that ended at a border crossing in Belize, the man accused of a $2.8 million gold heist in Coral Gables is back behind bars in a Miami-Dade jail.
He won’t be getting bail.
A judge on Thursday ordered Raonel Valdez Valhuerdis, 35, held in jail as prosecutors prepare to try him for a brazen armed robbery. He was believed to have run to Mexico, and was captured in February crawling through the bushes at a Belize border crossing with Guatemala, according to federal authorities.
The U.S. Marshals Service, after approval from U.S. Homeland Security officials, brought the Cuban national back on a flight to Miami on Wednesday afternoon. He was booked into a Miami-Dade jail.
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“Working in conjunction with the government of Belize, we have brought back to South Florida a violent fugitive who will be prosecuted for his alleged crimes,” said Amos Rojas, the U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Florida, in a news release.
Miami-Dade prosecutors believe Valdez Valhuerdis was behind the stick-up of a courier for the Bolivia-based export company, Quri Wasi, which buys gold from small businesses in La Paz, and then melts it down and sells it to South Florida refineries.
Investigators say Valdez Valhuerdis 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 to be melted down, and then resold for jewelry or electronic parts.
Detectives tied Valdez Valhuerdis to the scene because he was wearing a GPS ankle monitor while awaiting trial on charges of attacking his ex-girlfriend.
After the arrest, a Miami-Dade judge — over objections from prosecutors — allowed him out of jail, again on the condition he wear an ankle monitor. Then, Valdez Valhuerdis vanished.
The courier has since died of natural causes, which could put the state's case at risk.
“I’m ready for the trial, any time, any day,” said his defense attorney, Alex Michaels. “He is not guilty because he didn’t do it.”
Valdez Valhuerdis has mounting legal woes. At the time of his escape from Florida, he was also on probation for marijuana trafficking.
He faces up to 20 years in prison for violating that probation.