CORAL GABLES, Fla. – A man accused of stealing nearly $3 million worth of gold has been arrested in Belize after nearly a year and a half on the run.
Raonel Valdez is considered to be responsible for the largest robbery in the history of Coral Gables.
Valdez and two accomplices allegedly attacked a courier at gunpoint inside his Coral Gables home in October 2012. Authorities said they stole $2.8 million worth of pure gold the victim was supposed to deliver to an Opa-locka refinery.
Investigators believe Valdez's team stalked the courier for three months. When he went to leave his apartment building with the gold, the men attacked him at gunpoint in the elevator.
"These aren't your average criminals," said private investigator David Bolton. "They're very tough, very intelligent. They know the system well."
Bolton's company, Bolton Investigations, Inc., was hired to track down Valdez and his team.
Valdez was arrested two weeks after the heist, but once he was granted bond, he disappeared.
"The trail began to get cold ... We did search for him in four other countries," said Bolton. "We felt we were close to catching him, but he slipped away in the last few months and the trail has been very cold."
Valdez was taken into custody last week in Belize while trying to cross the border into Guatemala. Bolton said authorities were tipped off by his suspicious Cuban passport.
"He was acting suspicious, but he wasn't in Interpol," said Bolton. "That's when they Googled his name and came across the wanted poster I had placed there and immediately got in touch with U.S. marshals here."
Valdez is expected to be extradited to South Florida in the coming days to face charges stemming from the robbery.
The gold that was stolen is still missing, and it appears unlikely it will ever be returned. The company responsible for it did not insure it and will have to absorb the major loss.