Audacious crime family from Portland gets federal comeuppance for armored car heists

By Bryan Denson, The Oregonian

on March 20, 2013 at 8:00 PM, updated March 20, 2013 at 10:34 PM
A Portland family staged the robberies of two armored cars and a security vault, stashed away nearly $4 million and lived under the radar for years -- indulging in small, guilty pleasures such as a cigar club, cookbooks and a used Hummer SUV -- before federal agents brought them to justice.

All the while, prosecutors say, the money provided no happiness as they lived in a tiny rental home on the city's southeast side, worked low-wage jobs and worried that one day police would knock on their door.

"They were essentially miserable," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Edmonds.

At their sentencing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones declared 65-year-old Archie Cabello the "kingpin" of the family plot and sentenced him to 20 years in federal prison -- "if you live that long."

Cabello's 59-year-old wife, Marian Cabello, and their 40-year-old son, Vincent Cabello, drew much-reduced sentences after cooperating with federal prosecutors to help make the case against Archie Cabello.

Marian Cabello got 15 months in prison, but likely will get out in a matter of weeks because of the time she's already served. Vincent Cabello, who rebuilt his life, took college classes and got engaged while out on pretrial release, drew an 18-month sentence.

The Cabello clan's story is one of audacious inside jobs, secret wealth and one of the most peculiar households in the annals of Oregon crime and punishment.

Government prosecutors say the family's run of felonies began nearly 18 years ago, in Milwaukee, Wis., where Archie Cabello labored as a driver for Dunbar Federal Armored Express Inc.

On Aug. 5, 1995, he staged the theft of $157,839 from a Dunbar armored car, offloading the money to Marian Cabello, she has acknowledged. Archie Cabello then pretended that he was robbed, according to the government. He was questioned but never charged with any crime.

Vincent Cabello got out of the Army that year and soon moved home with his folks in Milwaukee. It was there, Vincent Cabello testified at a recent hearing, that his father began working on him to take jobs at businesses where large amounts of money were stored. He worked at a casino before taking a job as a shipping and receiving clerk at American Security Corp.

On April 20, 1998, Archie Cabello walked in on Vincent Cabello, alone with a vault full of cash at American Security, and staged a phony robbery. He handcuffed his son in the business and left him there as he made off with $730,000. Vincent Cabello, discovered the next morning, was questioned extensively by investigators and released.

The three Cabellos moved to Portland the following year, stashing proceeds from the thefts in a money storage facility in Bellevue, Wash. Archie went to work for the shipping company DHL, but took a pay cut to go to work for Oregon Armored Car.

Then came the big score.

On Dec. 6, 2005, Archie Cabello drove an armored car to a spot near the Multnomah Building in Southeast Portland, where he off-loaded $3 million to Vincent Cabello. Marian Cabello had equipped father and son with prepaid cellular phones to coordinate the heist. Vincent Cabello drove off in his car, rented another auto, then made his way to Bellevue the next morning to stash the money in their storage box.

The FBI worked the case closely for a couple of months, keeping an eye on the Cabellos. They would learn that both Archie and Vincent Cabello had reportedly been victims of big-money heists in Milwaukee. But the Cabellos, crammed together in a 988-square-foot rental house and apparently arguing over the money, lay low.

"I think Archie's goal was to fly in under the radar," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Claire M. Fay, a veteran financial-crimes prosecutor who teamed with Edmonds to try the Cabellos.

Internal Revenue Service agents began poking around in the Cabellos' financial records, eventually finding that they had purchased hundreds of money orders and made payments on dozens of credit cards.

The government charged the Cabellos in late 2010 with a 51-count indictment that accused them of conspiracy to steal and possess bank money, false statements in credit card applications, filing a false tax return and money laundering. A magistrate cut the Cabellos free as they awaited trial.

In February 2012, Vincent Cabello seized on the chance to cooperate with government investigators; he and his lawyer met with prosecutors and federal agents to spill his soul about his family's crimes. Vincent Cabello led them to a little less than $2 million hidden in Bellevue, a major coup for investigators, who locked up his parents.

It's not entirely clear why Vincent Cabello turned on his dad. But in an unusual court hearing recently in which Archie Cabello, serving as his own lawyer, questioned his son about his mental competency, Vincent Cabello said, "I don't trust you, and I don't want anything more to do with you."

At Wednesday's sentencing, Archie Cabello found himself listening to his wife recount his life and crimes from the witness stand. But when it was his turn to cross-examine her, he offered a statement instead of a question: "I just want to thank you for 44 wonderful years of marriage," he said.

Marian Cabello scarcely looked his way.

--Bryan Denson

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