Armored-car heist worthy ofa Tarantino film |

Armored-car heist worthy ofa Tarantino film

by John L. smith

You can’t say it wasn’t about the money. This is Las Vegas. It’s always about the money. But what made a record-setting Loomis armored-car heist in 1993 one of the great mysteries of Vegas wasn’t just the fact that it netted the brazen robbers at least $2.5 million in cash. It was a crime straight off the Paramount lot, with characters sent direct from Central Casting, had Quentin Tarantino placed the call.

The crime flowed so fluidly that no one was surprised it was an inside job. And what an insider.

Heather Tallchief was a kid at the time. She easily passed the armored-car company’s security background check. With no criminal record and barely in her 20s, she had little background to check. The Seneca Indian was the quintessence of “didn’t seem the type.”

Now that Tallchief has turned herself in after more than a dozen years on the run, maybe we’ll finally learn the truth behind the criminal mystery that left law enforcement red-faced and scratching its head. (An FBI spokesman said Tuesday the Bureau isn’t available for comment until after Tallchief’s scheduled sentencing by Chief U.S. District Judge Philip Pro on Nov. 30. Perhaps by then someone will answer why everyone failed to find Tallchief, who was working as a maid in Amsterdam before returning to the United States.)

Back in 1993, Tallchief was 21. That’s an impressionable age.

She was made to order to be used by hardened ex-con Roberto Solis, a Nicaragua native also known as Julius Suave. At 48, Solis had spent a third of his life in prison, where men are known to spend long hours reading Shakespeare and occasionally take time out to review past criminal mistakes for future improvement.

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Solis had some improving to do. He mangled his previous attempt to separate Loomis from its cash, killing a company employee in a 1969 robbery in San Francisco and getting caught. Seventeen years later, he returned to the population, looking to try again. Tallchief was a perfect shill.

Was it a criminal version of “Pygmalion” with Tallchief in the role of apprentice? Perhaps.

But one fact that weighs against her is the timing of her joining the company and ensuing robbery. It’s impossible to believe she wasn’t in on the planning of the heist.

And a lot of planning went into it.

It’s no secret law enforcement solves most high-dollar robberies swiftly. The penitentiaries are full of would-be Bonnie & Clydes. And plenty of robbers with above-average intelligence quotients are doing 25 long in Leavenworth for pulling almost-perfect armored car jobs.

What made this duo different?

Perhaps it was the fact that Tallchief was female, and Solis had spent so many years rehearsing his plan, which took the couple from Las Vegas to Denver in a chartered plane. Both wore disguises, and Tallchief was in a wheelchair, no doubt with the loot close by.

How they successfully transported more than $2 million in cash is a mystery within a mystery.

Their plan was to head south to Miami and use fake passports to leave the country. For a con of Solis’ experience, obtaining a phony passport in the Casablanca of the Florida coast would have been as easy as ordering a cup of caf cubano.

But when the passports were pulled at the last minute, the couple maintained its composure and kept moving.

Tallchief later bore Solis a child, and reportedly left her partner in crime and the cash behind years ago.

She recently flew to Los Angeles to face the music.

Can you smell a book and movie deal in this somewhere?


And a relatively happy ending is in sight.

With nine felony counts reduced to three, and after having 10 years to raise her son and secure his future, Tallchief has already emerged the winner. And you may believe she spent none of those millions if you wish.

With help from Connecticut lawyer Bob Axelrod and local attorney Dan Albregts, Tallchief is one step closer to paying her societal debt and solving this mystery of Vegas.

Will prosecutors argue the Solis-Tallchief caper encouraged the million-dollar heists that followed their 1993 getaway?

They should. But, meanwhile, does anyone have a number for Quentin Tarantino?

n John L. Smith’s column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal’s Opinion page. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.