Defendant was fired from company that contracted with United states Postal Service
The alleged mastermind of the October 2009 mail truck robbery in Taft was a former driver with insider knowledge and the gunman was his nephew, according to police and federal court documents.
Both men were arrested in Bakersfield on May 5 and indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday.
They were identified today by the United States Attorney as Daniel "Danny" Diaz, 24 and Raul Ojeda, 40, both of Bakersfield.
The two men are charged in connection with the Oct. 16 hijacking and robbery of a mail truck that had stopped at East Kern Street and Highway 119.
A man armed with a handgun jumped in the cab of the truck and forced the driver to drive at gunpoint to the eastern side of the old West Side hospital complex.
The driver was tied up with duct tape while bags containing money were removed from the back of the mail truck.
Both men are charged with conspiracy to kidnap a federal employee and aggravated robbery of mail, money, or other property of the United States.
If convicted of all charges, they could face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Diaz is also threatened with intimidating a witness for allegedly threatening to kill him and breaking out the windows to his car.
Witnesses and video surveillance place one of the suspects' car in the 200 block of East Kern just minutes before the robbery occurred at the intersection of East Kern and Highway 119.
According to federal court documents and law enforcement sources, Ojeda is a former route driver for the contractor that delivers and picks up mail and money for the United States Postal Service on the West Side.
A witness also told the United States Postal Investigation Service that Ojeda knew the driver who was driving the truck that was targeted for the robbery.
Ojeda was identified by one witness as the "mastermind" and Diaz as the gunman.
Taft Police Lt. Ed Whiting confirmed that.
The lieutenant said investigators zeroed in on Ojeda right from the start.
"He was our suspect right from the get-go. We knew it had to be somebody with insider knowledge," Whiting said Friday afternoon. "It just took us a while to put all the pieces together."
Ojeda had recently been terminated by the contractor for the postal truck, Whiting said.
But gathering the evidence took nearly eight months and was aided by two key witnesses that came forward.
Diaz threatened one of those witnesses on May 3 and that prompted police and postal inspectors, aided by Bakersfield police, to arrest the men last week.
An affidavit filed by Postal Inspector Connie Worrel said that an informant identified only as "Source of Information 1" contacted the postal inspection service hotline and was subsequently interviewed.
He told investigators that he recognized a drawing of the suspect in the robbery as Diaz and was at Diaz home about 8 p.m. (just over two hours after the robbery occurred) and saw a small handgun and saw several thousand dollars in cash along with some mail. The informant asked Diaz where he got the money and Diaz replied he "couldn't say because it was it was going to be on the news and he would be in trouble for it."
Another witness told investigators "they got good word from someone and robbed a postal guy."
On March 12, another informant identified in the affidavit as "Source of Information 2" spoke with investigators and said he knew "Diaz was the gunman and Diaz's uncle was the mastermind behind the plan."
This witness said he rode to Taft with the two suspects and two other men, who have not been charged.
The witness said he saw Ojeda drop Diaz off at the park on Kern Street and then saw Diaz run up to the mail truck as it was stopped at the intersection with East Kern Street and Highway 119 and jump inside.
He said he was in a vehicle two vehicles behind the mail truck at the time
Diaz bragged about the robbery, the informant said, and told him that he got approximately $2,000 from the robbery and Ojeda got the rest.
Whiting said law enforcement officers decided to move in and arrest the principal suspects after they received word on May 3 from Bakersfield Police that "Source of Information 1" had reported that Diaz had threatened him and broke out all the windows to his car.
In her affidavit, Worrel said the informant told police that Diaz called him and said " Hey fool its Danny, I want to tell one thing, you keep my name out of your mouth."
Diaz then used expletives in a threat to kill the informant.
"When that happened it accelerated things quite a bit," Whiting said. "We took that very seriously."
Diaz and Ojeda are scheduled to be arraigned on May 19.