Two Hialeah men thought they had carried out the perfect crime, but a tiny error put them on the radar of police and now they will spend 10 years in prison for a robbery in 2009.
Diosme Fernández Hano, 44 and known as Papito, and Reinaldo Arrastia Cardoso, 48, were convicted in October and sentenced this week for the theft of nearly $1.8 million from a Brinks armored truck. They will also have to return the money.
An FBI agent’s affidavit submitted to a federal court in Florida alleged that the two robbers drove into the parking lot of a Fifth Third Bank in Fort Myers, dressed in black T-shirts and jeans, their faces covered with ski masks and carrying one pistol.
The men climbed into the truck through the rear door and pistol-whipped one of the two Brinks guards, identified as Jimmy Ortiz. The driver, Bernard Meaney, tried to avoid further violence by telling the thieves to take two parcels of money and go away.
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When they didn’t take his offer, Meaney put the truck in reverse, stomped on the gas pedal and crashed into the thieves’ car, parked four feet behind the truck. Meaney then put the truck into forward gear and side-swiped the car.
A passerby noticed the ruckus and called 911. But by the time police arrived the thieves had made off with $1,773,395.11.
The thieves’ beat-up red Pontiac getaway car was abandoned nearby. Investigators found a ski mask inside and extracted some DNA, but with no other evidence the case languished for nearly five years.
Court documents show Fernández paid someone $10,000 to take him and his wife by boat to his native Cuba, where he lived for more than four years. He bought several cars and an apartment for his mother in western Pinar del Rio province.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security records show he returned to the United States in April of 2014 through the Mexican border with Texas. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle records show he settled in Hialeah.
It’s not known what the other robber, Arrastia, did between the robbery and his capture.
FBI agents heard about Fernández in 2014, when a confidential informant told them that a friend from Cuba had boasted of having robbed an armored truck in Fort Myers in 2009 with another man named Reinaldo Arrastia.
The informant claimed that Fernández had revealed the two Brinks employees were in on the robbery and that the pistol-whipping was just part of the plot. Authorities had suspected as much, but neither of the men have been charged.
Fernández also claimed that the red Pontiac had been rigged with a bomb to destroy any evidence, but the explosive did not work, according to the informant.
The informant — who has never been identified publicly —also confessed to having unknowingly helped with the robbery by putting Fernández in touch with a woman who was selling an old red Pontiac in 2009.
Authorities managed to get a sample of Fernández’s DNA in 2015, which matched the DNA found on the ski mask. He was arrested in August of 2015, and Arrastia followed in April of 2016.
The confidential informant faces charges of RICO conspiracy, structuring transactions to evade reporting or participating in a car crash scheme and motor vehicle insurance fraud. Fernández and Arrastia will be on parole for three years after completing their 10-year sentences.
It’s not known whether any of the stolen money remains in Cuba.
Follow Johanna A. Álvarez on Twitter: @jalvarez8.