Suspect in theft of gold flakes from back of armoured truck in US caught in Ecuador

A still frame from NYPC surveillance video shows a man carrying a 86-pound pail of gold flakes valued at $1.6 million off an armored truck in Manhattan, New York, US.
A still frame from NYPC surveillance video shows a man carrying a 86-pound pail of gold flakes valued at $1.6 million off an armored truck in Manhattan, New York, US. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - In December, when officials identified the suspect wanted in the theft of a bucket of gold flakes valued at US$1.6 million (S$2.28 million), Detective Martin Pastor of the New York Police Department vowed he would find him.

"I'm going to come and get you," the detective said in an interview with the television station WNBC. "He can run as far as he can, and we will find him."

Authorities said the suspect, Julio Nivelo, did in fact run after the theft in September, from New York to Florida - and then to Los Angeles.

On Thursday (Jan 19), Nivelo was caught in his native Ecuador, police said. The fate of the gold flakes was unknown, and it was not clear what led to Nivelo's arrest. Detective Pastor could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday night.

The police said that Nivelo, who is in his 50s and is also known as David Vargas and uses other aliases, was awaiting extradition to the United States.

 

The theft drew widespread attention for its audacity and its tenacity. The police said Nivelo swiped the bucket from the back of an armoured truck on Sept 29 in Midtown Manhattan.

The thief walked or waddled about a kilometre carrying the 39kg of flakes. Video showed a man moving slowly and pausing often because of the bucket's weight, which officials said was more than half what he weighed.

The flakes are shed as jewellers and others work with gold. The scraps are weighed with precision and stored in buckets.

Nivelo was living in West New York, New Jersey, at the time of the theft, which took place on West 48th Street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas.

WNBC reported in December that Nivelo had previously been arrested seven times and deported four times.