Friday, Sept. 16, 2005 | 9:28 a.m.
Heather Catherine Tallchief will plead not guilty to charges related to the 1993 heist of $2.5 million in Las Vegas unless prosecutors agree to a plea bargain in the next couple of weeks, one of her lawyers said Thursday.
"When or if it comes to that, she will enter a plea of not guilty and will ask for a jury trial" if she cannot strike a deal with the U.S. attorneys office before her preliminary hearing on Sept. 29, said her attorney Robert Axelrod of Meriden, Conn., on Thursday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Stanish, who is prosecuting Tallchief, refused to comment on the case.
Tallchief surrendered herself to U.S. marshals on Thursday morning after more than a decade on the lam.
For the last several years Tallchief had been living in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where she worked at various jobs under an assumed name, her attorney said.
The U.S. attorney's office, in an amended complaint filed in February 2004, is charging her with multiple counts including bank larceny and fleeing to avoid prosecution.
A former driver for Loomis Armored Inc., Tallchief allegedly absconded with $2.5 million from an armored car that she had been driving on Oct. 1, 1993, from Circus Circus, according to the complaint.
Her then-boyfriend, Roberto Ignacio Solis, aka Julius Gabriel Sauve, also a suspect in the heist, is still at large.
Though they have a son, Tallchief has not had contact with Solis for almost 10 years, her attorney said.
U.S. Magistrate Robert Johnston ordered Tallchief detained during an initial appearance at the federal court on Thursday and scheduled her preliminary hearing for Sept. 29.
Axelrod said he and her local attorney, Dan Albregts, did not object to the judge's ruling to detain her because "she doesn't have ties to the community."
Tallchief was dressed in a white blazer and pink blouse during her initial appearance and remained silent throughout the hearing except when Johnston asked her if she understood the charges against her and accepted the attorneys as her legal representatives.
"Yes," she replied several times.
Tallchief surrendered to authorities because she wanted her 10-year-old son to live a normal life, Axelrod said.
Tallchief's son is currently living with her fiance in Amsterdam, he said. She decided to surrender now because the boy is old enough to understand the crime with which she is charged and he is in a stable home environment, Axelrod said.
"He can now comprehend this," he said.
He denied that Tallchief surrendered because the authorities in the United States or abroad were closing in on her, saying that there was no possibility that she would have been apprehended anytime soon.
"She was leading a normal life" he said, describing Tallchief as a "soccer mom."
"She just wants her son to have a normal life," he said.
Interpol, the international law enforcement agency, refused to discuss the case.
"It is the policy of the office to not comment on an investigation ongoing or otherwise, even if it is closed," said Cristle Van Humes, spokeswoman for the U.S. National Central Bureau of Interpol.
Richard Gerding, counsel for justice and home affairs at the Netherlands embassy in Washington D.C., said he had no specific information about Tallchief or any possible apprehension of her by authorities in the Netherlands.
Tallchief had allegedly been planning on surrendering since March, but the plans with attorneys for her to return to Las Vegas became more concrete in July, Albregts said.
She arrived in Los Angeles on Monday and met with Axelrod, he said. Tallchief also met with a psychiatrist while she was in Los Angeles, he said.
They arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday night but didn't inform the U.S. attorney's office that she was going to surrender until Thursday morning.
The U.S. Marshals Service said they had no indication that she was going to turn herself in.
"She just showed up on our doorstep with her attorney," said Pat Sedoti, acting chief deputy of the Marshals Service.
Axelrod said Tallchief is now ready to take responsibility for her crime.
"She has a good attitude about it," he said.