MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A man wanted in connection to the biggest gold heist in Florida history is in jail in Miami after fleeing the country following the crime more than a year and a half ago.
Raonel Valdez-Valhuerdis, 34, was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center Wednesday evening, accused of committing an armed robbery in Coral Gables where more than 100 pounds of gold was stolen.
He was deported Wednesday from Belize after being detained there on Feb. 18th.
Shouting in Spanish, Valdez-Valhuerdis proclaimed his innocence as he entered the jail.
It was October 2012 when investigators say three men cornered a gold courier as he exited the elevator of his Coral Gables apartment building.
They pointed a gun at him and got away with two suitcases stuffed with 110 pounds of gold flakes, valued at about $2.8 million, police said.
At the time of the armed robbery, Valdez was wearing a court ordered GPS ankle monitor as a result of a previous arrest.
Coral Gables police detectives analyzed the GPS locations on Valdez’ ankle monitor that confirmed Valdez was at the scene of the crime at the exact time the victim was robbed, a claim he denied as he entered the jail.
A further analysis of the GPS locations for weeks prior to the armed gold robbery showed that Valdez appeared to be conducting his own surveillance of the gold broker’s residence, according to a release from the U.S. Marshals Service.
A trio of private investigators hired by the Bolivian company that owned the stolen gold were part of the search to find Valdez.
Tom Raffanello said the manhunt spanned several countries including Mexico, the Bahamas and eventually, Belize.
“When you’re in something like this, and I’ve done something like this for different levels of crooks, at some point, if you set the right traps, you have a good chance of seeing him again,” Raffanello said.
When the case turned cold, Private Investigator David Bolton said he had the idea to create a “WANTED” poster and put it online.
When Valdez was arrested in while trying to illegally enter Belize, the immigration officer, acting on a hunch, searched for his name on the Internet and realized Valdez was wanted in Florida.
“He saw the wanted poster, he emailed me and asked me if the wanted poster was real. I immediately said within minutes responded and said yes it is,” Bolton explained.
Valdez, a Cuban national, wasn’t extradited immediately following his February arrest.
“The paperwork took several months,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Barry Golden. “But even the Cuban embassy in Belize didn’t want him back in the country. They wanted him deported to the U.S. because they believe he’s a violent criminal.”
Valdez is currently being held in the Miami Dade County Jail.