LAS VEGAS (AP) — Authorities are checking a 20-year-old man’s claim that he was brought from Mexico City to Las Vegas under threat that his family would be harmed unless he took part in a weekend smash-and-grab burglary at a casino jewelry store, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Sebastian Gonzalez told police he was given fake identification, a toy gun and a pig mask for the sledgehammer looting of the closed Tesorini store that prompted calls about gunfire early Saturday morning at the Bellagio resort.
“There’s a lot of follow-up that has to be done,” prosecutor John Giordani said outside court. “And there are still three suspects outstanding.”
In court, Gonzalez stood in shackles with a Spanish-language interpreter and acknowledged that he understood the charges against him.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Eric Goodman said he won’t set bail until he knows Gonzalez’s citizenship.
“I have zero information on him,” the judge told Gonzalez’s court-appointed attorney, Kelli DeVaney-Sauter. “I don’t even know if he’s a citizen.”
Gonzalez was arrested after a wild chase in the Bellagio parking garage following the 1 a.m. Saturday break-in, according to a police report.
Gonzalez’s birthplace was listed as Los Angeles.
In a recorded interview, Gonzalez told detectives he traveled by truck from Mexico City to Arizona after people in Mexico threatened to hurt his family if he didn’t follow their instructions.
In Las Vegas, he said, he was ordered to rent rooms at two low-cost motels, and he met three other men.
He told police he was given a pig mask and outfitted with an earpiece and cellphone and told to stand lookout while the other men broke into the store. They were instructed to take high-value watches “which he said would later be sold in Mexico for up to $2 million,” the police report said.
Police didn’t say what was taken in the heist.
Initial reports of gunfire in the casino appeared to stem from people misinterpreting the sharp sound of sledgehammers shattering glass jewelry cases, police said later.
The getaway was nearly thwarted by a bystander who later handed the keys to the ignition of a white Nissan Maxima to police and said he took them after noticing the car parked “in a suspicious manner” and four men running into the casino wearing masks.
He told police he watched the men return to the car, jump in, and panic when they couldn’t start the car.
A casino security guard told police she approached the vehicle but backed off when the would-be driver pointed a handgun at her as the four suspects ran away.
A motorist with two passengers in her vehicle locked the doors and sped out of the parking structure when the men approached, police said.
Gonzalez threw his fake gun and clothing under parked cars and tried to hide while the other three men fled on foot down the Las Vegas Strip, police said.
After his arrest, he told police the getaway plan was to go back to one of the motel rooms, cut merchandise tracking devices from the watches and board a bus to San Diego or Tijuana, Mexico.
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