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Man says he robbed banks for CIA

The strange case of the Target worker, six banks and a sugar daddy.

By Rich_Maloof Apr 24, 2013 5:34PM

Herson Torres was wary but intrigued. Here he was at 21 years old, stacking boxes at Target for $11 an hour, when a friend from high school sent a text asking if he was interested in a $25,000 opportunity working for the government.

Photo: Herson Torres / Fairfax County Police The job? Robbing banks for the CIA, according to the friend.

What followed in the hours, days and weeks after that initial text is the stuff of spy novels — the kind that end with unanswered questions.

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Torres met the friend, Carolina Villegas, three hours later in a Virginia parking lot and was put on the phone with a mysterious man who identified himself only as Theo. The man said he worked for the government and was recruiting people for an undercover project testing retail bank security. If Torres walked away from a robbery with money, Theo said, he’d be paid $25,000. If unsuccessful, he’d still be paid $2,500 for the attempt.

Torres laughed, skeptical, and wondered if he was being punked. But Theo assured him the government operation was real. Federal authorities would clear him within 24 hours if caught. He told Torres he’d been vetted by his agency, and cited a misdemeanor theft at J.C. Penney that Torres had been charged with when he was 15.

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Torres was in. And the operation started immediately. He was driven by Villegas to the first of three banks he would attempt to rob that day. He took directions from the cool-headed Theo over the phone as the police gave chase, and listened as Theo called authorities to get the helicopter off his back.

Torres and Villegas hid out in a parking lot that night until Theo gave the all clear. Torres has said he remained suspicious of Theo and Villegas, but was also thrilled. He was told to bring friends and try again the next day.

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The friends and relatives Torres reached out to were skeptical as he had been — until Villegas produced a document from Theo on Defense Intelligence Agency letterhead describing Operation Downstrike, which would be executed with the help of civilian volunteers who would be immune from civil and criminal action.

Torres and his companions attempted three more bank robberies in the following days, all under Theo’s direction. Theo arranged for Torres to be away from his job at Target, and promised a “fix” of the fingerprints Torres left behind at one bank and of images security cameras had captured.

Within a week, Torres was under arrest and trying to convince authorities about his government mission. The detectives were contacted by Theo, who put them on the defensive. “Where is he? What have you done with him?” Theo demanded. “You can’t make people disappear — only we can.” A Washington law firm was contacted by Theo as well, who  persuaded them to take Torres’ case.

In the end, the charges against Torres would be dropped and police would be led to the true identity of Theo: a 26-year-old man named Joshua Brady who lived in a quiet community with his mother, grandmother and 10-year-old brother. A CIA buff and previously accused confidence artist, Brady had met Villegas through a sugar-daddy website.

Brady was charged with impersonating a government official and three counts of attempted bank robbery — though in an interview from jail, he said the CIA was penalizing him for allowing Torres to be a fall guy. Charges against each of the attempted robbers and against Villegas were apparently dropped because authorities believe they were all taken in by Brady's elaborate con.

Read the whole story, as reported by Bloomberg’s Tom Schoenberg, at Bloomberg Businessweek.


This post has been edited from the original to bring additional facts to light.

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Photo: Herson Torres / Fairfax County Police

18Comments
May 2, 2013 1:13AM
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THE C.I.A. AT IT AGAIN.  I would gladly rob banks for the C.I.A. if that's all they were about.  But, they're also about killing Americans.  Dave Lindorff in his Tuesday 30 April 2013 article entitled:  "Two degrees of separation:  Tsarnaev Brothers had a CIA Connection" at superimposed the Lee Harvey Oswald template onto Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  In the late '50s U.S. intelligence had several former U.S. military personell pretend to defect to the Soviet Union (Mark Lane).  They kept their U.S. citizenship and after around a year or two they pretended that they were disaffected and then returned to the U.S.  Their mission was to find out what Soviet intelligence was interested from the questions they asked during the interrogations of the new defectors.  The similarities between the Oswald fiasco and the Tamerlan fiasco are way too many to deny C.I.A. involvement.  Oswald married the daughter or niece of a high ranking K.G.B. official.  Either Marina or the father/uncle changed her/his last name.  Of course, the Soviets figured out the C.I.A. mission and gave the C.I.A. a message by having the ultimate marine, Oswald (the ultimate ****-up), marry a woman named "Marina" and make it back home.

We still have a hostile relationship with Russia.  As Mr. Lindorff wrote, the C.I.A. has worked with terrorists who have murdered Russians.  They did what we'd do if the Russians were as retarded as the C.I.A.  When Tamerlan returned to Europe the Russians had to suspect him.  They turned him.  If Tamerlan was not working for some Intelligence agency, then he became an agent of Russia.  If Tamerlan returned to Europe as a C.I.A. agent, then Tamerlan became a double-agent of Russia when he was turned.  The Russians didn't have to influence Tamerlan to attack America.  The C.I.A. mission was as transparent as their phoney defector missions of the '50s.  All Russia had to do was make sure the C.I.A's. useful idiot got back to America before he ****ed up - another repeat of the Oswald scenario.


On the other hand, wouldn't you or American intelligence have one of our agents or double-agents attack and murder Russians if the F.S.B. supported American terrorists who murdered opera goers in New York City?  Maybe, the Boston Massacre had to be done according to Russian thinking because of an out of control C.I.A.  Maybe the only thing Russia could do was send that message.  Wouldn't you?  I wouldn't just because watching the C.I.A. in action is so fascinating.  Will someone please put the C.I.A. Operatives in jail who were running Tamerlan?  More information from Russia will come out further embarrassing American intelligence.

Apr 24, 2013 9:48PM
Apr 24, 2013 9:13PM
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This story isn't believable even if I saw it on the "Movie of the Week" channel. The CIA wouldn't send amateurs into a situation like robbing banks that could lead to their deaths. Bloomberg is making this up.
Apr 24, 2013 9:07PM
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This is about an idiotic an article as it gets.

You left wing morons, including MSN, just show stupid you are! 

Apr 24, 2013 9:02PM
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this story had it all, the grip, the  hold on, the miss direction, and left the end with so many questions.......lol what a ride.
Apr 24, 2013 9:00PM
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http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-18/in-virginias-fairfax-county-robbing-banks-for-the-cia#p4

The whole story is here.

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