Prosecution, defense rest in Las Vegas theft ring trial

Both sides rested their cases Wednesday in the federal trial of three Cuban immigrants charged in a major Las Vegas-area theft ring.

Closing arguments are expected to start at 9 a.m. Friday in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey. The jury has Thursday off.

None of the defendants — Julio De Armas Diaz, 54; Alexis Torres Simon, 46; and Alexander Del Valle Garcia, 42 — took the witness stand in their own defense. They listened to testimony during the trial with the help of Spanish-speaking interpreters.

The three men, who are in federal custody, are facing felony charges tied to the theft of drugs and expensive merchandise from delivery vans and warehouses around the Las Vegas Valley.

The government’s case is built around the testimony of a six-time felon who prosecutors said worked undercover with FBI agents to help break up the theft ring.

Yordani Corona Del Toro, 23, testified that he secretly recorded conversations with the defendants planning the robbery and kidnapping of a delivery van driver hauling pharmaceutical drugs.

Simon and De Armas Diaz were taken into custody April 8, 2013, as they were about to carry out the robbery scheme, testimony during the trial suggested.

Del Valle Garcia was arrested several days later.

Federal prosecutors had English transcripts of the tapes read to the jury last week. In one hourlong tape, according to prosecutors, Del Toro discussed the delivery van caper the day before with Simon and De Armas Diaz, as they drove around town and did a dry run.

Defense lawyers have maintained that Del Toro, also a Cuban immigrant, was allowed to “skate free” on felony charges in two separate burglary cases for cooperating with the FBI.

Del Toro got probation in both cases despite plea deals allowing state prosecutors to seek life in prison for him as a habitual criminal after he left the country for several months last year.

He testified earlier in the trial that he fled to Mexico and then Cuba, leaving his newborn daughter behind, out of fear for his safety. The wife of one of the defendants sent his mother a threat, indicating he would pay for cooperating with FBI agents, Del Toro said.

On Wednesday, Del Toro’s FBI handler, Agent Shay Christensen, completed two days of direct testimony and intense cross-examination about his dealings with Del Toro.

Christensen, who is fluent in Spanish, admitted under cross examination that he had several conversations with Del Toro while he was on the lam last year and was slow to tell his supervisor about his initial contact. He also acknowledged that he worked hard to help Del Toro get a break in his state cases.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter @JGermanRJ.