Police arrest two in series of brazen casino robberies

LAS VEGAS - Police arrested two men and are looking for others in connection with a series of brazen robberies of casinos and armored cars on the cash-rich Strip.

The cocky robbers considered themselves untouchable, said police, who linked the pair to five daring robberies over the past two years.

One robbery led to a shootout that left two guards wounded and had startled tourists diving for cover on the Las Vegas Strip.

Police say the pair also might have been involved in an armored car heist at a nearby clothing store in which two guards were shot to death.

Why did the robbers stick around for two years, pulling the heists?

''They thought they were untouchable, and they weren't,'' Lt. John Alamshaw, head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police crimes against persons unit, said Thursday. ''It was arrogance, strictly arrogance.''

Jose Vigoa, 40, was arrested Wednesday evening after leading Metro Police and SWAT officers on a high-speed 14-mile chase, weaving in and out of rush-hour traffic. Vigoa led pursuing officers through busy streets, a freeway and through parking lots.

The chase ended when he crashed the car into a tree, ''then abandoned his wife and child in the car and took off running,'' Alamshaw said. Vigoa was arrested two blocks away.

A second suspect, Oscar Cisneros, 23, was arrested without incident at his home a short time later.

Vigoa and Cisneros, both of Las Vegas, were booked into the Clark County Detention Center on charges of attempted murder, robbery, burglary and kidnapping.

Alamshaw said police are looking at other suspects.

Police said they recovered evidence, including body armor, clothing and a large amount of cash, to link the pair to five high-profile heists, Alamshaw said. They include:

- The weekend robbery of the main casino cage at the Bellagio resort, in which two men jumped over the cage and took cash while a third stood lookout;

- The robbery of two armored car guards inside the Mandalay Bay resort after the guards picked up cash at the casino cage;

- The robbery of two armored car guards in the MGM Grand hotel-casino after they had picked up money from the casino cage;

- The theft of a cart full of money from the New York-New York hotel-casino;

- The attempted robbery of two armored car guards who were ambushed outside the Desert Inn hotel-casino. The June 1999 gunbattle startled tourists and left the guards wounded.

Police, who said the suspects wore body armor and carried high-powered automatic weapons, said it was fortunate no one was killed in the gunfire.

Capt. Monty Sparks of the Henderson, Nev., Police Department said his agency, Metro and the FBI consider Vigoa and Cisneros suspects in the March slaying of two armored car guards at a Ross Dress for Less store in Henderson on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

Two guards, Richard Sosa, 47, the father of five, and Dean Prestidge, 23, both of Las Vegas, were pronounced dead at the scene of the Ross robbery.

''The investigation is leading us toward these suspects and their involvement in the Ross homicides,'' Sparks said.

Sparks said police have witnesses to the Ross shootings, ballistics evidence and ''we are accumulating massive amounts of evidence to close this case.''

Alamshaw and Sparks declined to say how much money was taken in any of the robberies.

Alamshaw said police had been looking at Vigoa and Cisneros as possible suspects, and surveillance videotape of the Bellagio heist helped break the case.

''Our detectives noticed that the suspect on the outside of the cage look like Vigoa,'' Alamshaw said. ''We called his probation officer in and he confirmed it was him.

''These subjects are very, very cocky, very confident,'' Alamshaw said. ''Can you imagine the arrogance, to view themselves on TV and then think they're not going to get caught.

''These guys were living here and decided to try and make a quick buck by robbing casinos and armored car vehicles,'' the lieutenant said. ''But they had a little trouble keeping the money.''


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