H-CAMBRIA

Dec 3, 2013 8:41 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Search warrant: Gambling problem may have led to bank robbery

Investigators say chronic gambling could be a possible motive behind a Cambria bank robbery last month.

On November 7, former Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputy Bruce Valentine was arrested. The 70-year old is charged with holding up the Rabobank in Cambria at gunpoint.

A search warrant obtained by KSBY Tuesday paints a picture of a grandfather who allegedly gambled hundreds of thousands dollars at a local casino over the last year.

The search warrant says Valentine was actually pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer less than an hour after the robbery went down. He was driving a gray, four-door Hyundai coupe, the same type as the one witnesses say the robber got into following the hold up. However, after giving his driver's license information, he was let go after a brief conversation.

The search warrant goes on to say a few minutes later, Valentine was again approached, this time by a California Fish and Wildlife officer. The officer says Valentine was smoking a cigarette on the side of the road. He was let go shortly after.

Investigators followed up five days later by interviewing Valentine at his home in Heritage Ranch near Lake Naciemiento.

The search warrant says Valentine told detectives he had rented the Hyundai coupe to use while his truck had a dent removed at a nearby auto body shop. He told investigators he chose not to have the work done because the estimate was too high. He then told them, since he had already rented the car, he decided to take a drive down Highway 1 towards Morro Bay.

According to the warrant, timelines didn't seem to match Valentine's story, including the fact he told investigators he had stopped at a liquor store to get a bottle of water and a sandwich. However, surveillance video from the store did not show Valentine coming in.

Valentine told detectives, later that night, he went to the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore to gamble and meet up with his brother who never showed. The warrant says police discovered Valentine, who lives on a fixed income, had been to the casino more than 100 times over the last year. He had previously told investigators he had only been there 20 times. Casino officials confirmed he had gambled more than $300,000 since January and lost more than $16,000.

The warrant also says Valentine was seen coming out of a wooded area by the Fish and Wildlife officer who approached him the day of the robbery. Later, detectives would find a black trash bag in the area containing clothing and shoes matching that worn during the robbery. They also found the cardboard note seen in the surveillance video being passed over to tellers.

Investigators obtained hair evidence at the bank and on the clothing found in the trash bag. Detectives are still working to match the DNA.

One thing the warrant says has not been located is the gun used during the robbery and the mask surveillance shows the robber wearing.

The warrant says Valentine tried to launder the money at a Tachi Palace Casino the night of the robbery. Investigators watched surveillance video of Valentine putting cash into slot machines and immediately cashing out to obtain a voucher ticket. He would then turn the money into clean cash at the casino cages.

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