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Armored Truck Security Guards Shot Dead Outside Las Vegas-Area Department Store: "It’s evil. It’s brutal”

When police were called to a Ross Dress for Less store in Henderson, Nevada, they found one armored truck security officer dead on the ground and another who died on the way to the hospital.

 

By Joe Dziemianowicz

On March 3, 2000, several 911 callers reported a shooting involving an armored truck outside a Ross Dress for Less store in Henderson, Nevada, a city located about 15 miles south of Las Vegas.

How to Watch

Watch Sin City Murders on Oxygen Sundays at 7/6c and next day on Peacock. 

“Armored truck security officers and two armed suspects were exchanging gunfire,” Jutta Chambers, a now-retired chief with the Henderson Police Department, told Sin City Murders, airing Sundays at 7/6c p.m. on Oxygen.

Callers said that suspects left with a driver in a maroon vehicle. Police arrived and found one security guard dead on the ground near the armored truck. The other guard died on the way to the hospital.

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Armored car guards Gary Dean Prestidge II and Richard Sosa fatally shot

The victims were identified as Gary Dean Prestidge II, 23, and Richard Sosa, 47. The Henderson Police Department, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI all joined forces on the case.

Prior to this incident, there had been “a series of three armored car robberies that had taken place that we were investigating,” said Richard Beasley, a now-retired FBI special agent with the Las Vegas Division.

Investigators interviewed witnesses to the robbery outside the Ross store. “The store manager said that there was $69,000 of currency in the bag that the armored truck guard had taken,” said Chambers.

When the guard returned to the truck, he was confronted by the robbers and gunfire broke out. “The door was open to the truck, which allowed them to shoot and to strike the driver,” Chambers said.

Gary Dean Prestidge Jr. featured on Sin City Murders Episode 104

The robbers ended up getting away with just $4,000, according to Beasley.

Evidence at the crime scene was collected. “The types of cartridges recovered at the scene indicate there was at least one shoulder weapon used by the robbers,” said Beasley.

Prestidge’s gun was at the scene, said Joseph Szukiewicz, a now-retired crime scene analyst for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. A pool of blood at the scene suggested that the guard had shot one of the robbers.

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Two vans parked near the scene with newspaper covering the windows raised red flags. It appeared that the robbers scouted the scene and were “laying and waiting inside the van,” said Brett Shields, a now-retired FBI special agent, Las Vegas Division.

Blood-covered getaway car found

The getaway car was found at a shopping center across the street from the crime scene. Blood was on the back seat.

“There was blood outside the car and the blood trail appeared to go to another parking spot that was now empty,” said Beasley.

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The getaway car was processed for fingerprints and the license plate was run. “The maroon car was reported stolen from a rental car facility,” said Christine Maddela, a former news anchor at KVVU-TV, a local station covering Las Vegas. The two vans with newspaper covering the windows had also been stolen.

The previous hold-ups that the FBI was investigating also involved stolen vehicles. But a key aspect of this crime didn’t match. Witnesses at the Ross store scene stated that three Black males fled. The prior robberies were perpetrated by Hispanic males.

Gary Dean Prestidge Jr. featured on Sin City Murders Episode 104

Who were Gary Dean Prestidge II and Richard Sosa?

Investigators learned more about the victims’ backgrounds. Sosa had worked security in East Los Angeles before moving with his family to Las Vegas. “He thought it would be safer,” said Maddela.

Prestidge grew up in Needles, a city in Southern California. “He was such a fun and funny person to be around,” said his sister, Julie Prestidge. His mother, Shala Premack, said her son was thrilled to get his armored car job.

Investigators discovered that a mechanical malfunction of the armored truck’s bulkhead door allowed Sosa to be shot and that he was covering for a coworker who called out sick.

Was this an inside job? A thorough investigation revealed that the colleague had been legitimately ill and was cleared as a suspect, according to Sin City Murders.

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Detectives also considered that a relatively small sum of cash was stolen. “Why do an inside job for $4,000? It didn’t make sense,” said Beasley. The theory of an inside job was shelved.

The autopsy reports showed that Sosa had been shot in the right temple and the chest. Prestidge was shot seven times. “He was not only shot upright, but when he went down to the ground,” said Szukiewicz. “It’s evil. It’s brutal.”

Roughly a month after the fatal shooting, investigators reached out to the public for help. A police sketch of a suspect was released.

The rendering led to a potential suspect after two different women called a tip line about a local man. “It was a dead end,” said Shields. Detectives learned that the man was cheating on his two girlfriends and not involved in this crime.

Bellagio heist leads to break in armored car case

In June 2000, a robbery at the Bellagio Las Vegas Hotel and Casino led to a big break. A thief caught by surveillance cameras was identified as Jose Vigoa, the FBI’s number one suspect in the string of armored car heists under investigation.

Vigoa and his crew were initially suspected of the Ross store heist murders. “He was part of a large drug-trafficking organization that had ties throughout the United States into Mexico,” said Shields.

Vigoa’s gang consisted of his brothers-in-law Oscar Cisneros and Pedro Duarte, as well as Luis Suarez, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The FBI had tied the gang to heists involving armored cars transporting money to and from casinos at the MGM Grand in 1998, and the Desert Inn, and Mandalay Bay in 1999.

Jose Vigoa featured on Sin City Murders Episode 104

Jose Vigoa and his crew arrested

On June 7, 2000, authorities approached Vigoa’s residence. The suspect fled, leading officials on a high-speed chase before being apprehended.

“He was swearing at me and spitting on us,” said Shields. “He’s your typical Scarface movie character.”

Cisneros was also confronted. Both suspects’ homes were searched. A hidden trap door in the bedroom floor of Vigoa’s home turned up a cache of currency, masks and weapons.  A similar bounty was found at Cisneros’ residence.

“You’re talking about an ‘Oh crap!’ moment,” said Shields.

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At the same time, Cisneros was found to have a bullet wound on right knee. He said he was shot during the Ross store robbery, then gave a full confession that led to the arrests of Suarez and Duarte.

“He talked about how Luis Suarez was a getaway driver at the Ross killings,” said Beasley. “He talked about how Pedro Duarte was involved in one or two of the robberies.”

Cisneros’ DNA matched blood found at the Ross store crime scene. Weapons recovered linked the suspects to several of the crimes. Detectives concluded that the reason that witnesses reported seeing three Black males leaving the Ross store scene was because the suspects wore black masks during the incident. 

One suspect killed himself, others are sentenced

Cisneros hanged himself in jail four months after his arrest, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

In August 2002, two months after trying to break out of jail, Vigoa agreed to a plea deal. He was sentenced to four life terms for his role in the heists and the murders, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

Suarez was sentenced to up to 15 years for his role as the Ross store getaway driver as well as some of the other casino robberies. Duarte was sentenced to 16 to 70 years for his role in the Desert Inn heist in 1999.

“Gary had been referred to as a hero,” said his mom, Premack. “He fired his weapon and wounded one of the criminals, which led to the DNA,” she added. “And the same with Sosa, who wouldn’t drive off and leave his partner. They’re both heroes.”

To learn more about the case, featured in the “High-Stakes Heist” episode, watch Sin City Murders, airing Sundays at 7/6c p.m. on Oxygen.