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| Columns |

Victim of $2.8 Million Gold Heist in Coral Gables Dies

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Cuban gangster Raonel Valdez won't have to worry about his victim George Villegas testifying against him. Over the weekend, Villegas died of a heart attack in his Coral Gables apartment, the same one Valdez had been staking out for months in late 2012 hoping to catch Villegas slipping. On October 12, 2012, Valdez made his move when he and two accomplices robbed the 51-year-old Bolivian courier of $2.8 million in gold inside two suitcases.

Valdez -- a career criminal since he arrived in Miami in 2005 -- was wearing an ankle monitor during the heist and was the recent subject of a Miami New Times cover story about Cuban organized crime. Valdez was busted by Coral Gables Police detectives a couple of weeks after the robbery.

See also: A $2.8 Million Gold Heist Shows Cuban Gangs Still Rule Miami

In March, a few months after he bonded out, Valdez cut off an ankle monitoring bracelet and went on the lam. He remains a fugitive and was allegedly last seen in the Bahamas. Villegas, who suffered from renal failure and received dialysis treatments, was the only eyewitness. He positively ID'd Valdez as the man who pointed a gun at him and demanded he turn over the gold, which belonged to Quri Wasi, a Bolivian company owned by Villegas' cousin.

"George was always scared Raonel would come come back and harm him," says David Bolton, a private investigator hired by Quri Wasi to help recover the stolen gold.

Villegas' death could make it more difficult for state prosecutors to convict Valdez if he is recaptured. However, Brian McCormack, the assistant state attorney assigned to the case, assured Bolton in an email that he intends to move forward with the case. "We do have a chance at a successful result," McCormack wrote. "How much of a chance, I don't know."

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.

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