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Episode 69: Las detenciones (The Arrests)

By Duolingo on Thu 05 Nov 2020

An unexpected betrayal leads to the downfall of the robbers. But police still struggle to answer a central question: Who is the man who dreamt up this audacious plan that made fools of them?

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Transcript

Martina: It had been a month and a half since the Río bank heist, when a man named Alberto de la Torre was leaving his son's house for the day. He was headed out to visit relatives in his brand new SUV, or camioneta. But there were some strange cars parked outside his son's house. He began to suspect he was being followed.

Alberto de la Torre: Yo no sabía si era paranoia o si de verdad alguien me estaba siguiendo.

Martina: At 11 a.m., De la Torre was crossing a bridge that connects Buenos Aires to its suburbs…when suddenly, a truck and four cars closed in on him.

Alberto de la Torre: Cuando me interceptaron, yo pensé que me querían robar. Mi camioneta era muy linda y cara.

Martina: The cars were not there to rob him, though. They were there to arrest one of the most sought after men in Argentina: him — Alberto de la Torre. One of the thieves behind the Río bank heist.

Alberto de la Torre: Me bajaron de la camioneta y me tiraron al piso. Gritaron: "¡Somos de la policía!". En ese momento pensé: "Esto tiene que ser culpa de mi esposa".

Martina: Bienvenidos and welcome to El gran robo argentino — The Great Argentine Heist, a special serialized season of the Duolingo Spanish Podcast. I'm Martina Castro.

Today we follow investigators as they pursue a series of leads offered by the wife of one of the bank robbers. As always, you can follow along with full transcripts at podcast.duolingo.com.

And now, Episode 3: The Arrests, Las detenciones.

Martina: In the days leading up to the arrest of De la Torre, prosecutor Ariel Apolo didn't waste any time. As soon as he learned that a woman had called in saying she had information on the Río bank heist, he immediately invited her to his office. Here's prosecutor Apolo; we reached him by phone.

Apolo: Yo fui muy minucioso en la recepción de esta declaración testimonial donde ella nos aportó datos. Si un testigo miente, puede ser condenado a una pena de hasta diez años de prisión, con lo cual tiene la obligación de decir la verdad.

Martina: As soon as the woman arrived — even before she took a seat — she started sharing all kinds of details with prosecutor Apolo. She talked about her husband digging a tunnel, and then later, hiding loot. She seemed nervous…maybe even a little scared.

Apolo: Ella tenía cierto temor a que pudieran involucrarla y que el banco efectuara acciones legales contra ella. Me dijo que se llamaba Alicia Di Tullio y que era la esposa de uno de los partícipes del robo al banco.

Martina: The last name 'Di Tullio' immediately grabbed prosecutor Apolo's attention. He guessed that Alicia Di Tullio was the sister of Margarita Di Tullio, better known throughout Argentina as Pepita la Pistolera — Pepita the Gunslinger. Pepita was infamous in law enforcement circles for running several brothels and had even been accused of murder. So when Alicia Di Tullio volunteered a name…prosecutor Apolo was inclined to take her seriously.

Apolo: Alberto de la Torre. La mujer me dijo que él era uno de los delincuentes. Era su esposa, pero ahora estaban separados.

Martina: When Prosecutor Apolo and Officer M. later examined De la Torre's file, or expediente, they started piecing together Alicia Di Tullio's story. This was not just any criminal. Alberto de la Torre had a very long record as a member of some of the most notorious gangs in Argentina. Here's Officer M.:

Officer M.: Cuando leí el expediente policial de De la Torre, todo tenía sentido. Era un hombre con mucha experiencia en el mundo criminal. Él había estado en varias bandas famosas y había estado varios años en prisión.

Martina: Through Alicia Di Tullio's testimony, the police learned that her relationship with Alberto de la Torre had always been rocky. At first, they were very much in love, and Di Tullio found it exciting to be married to a thief who was so well-known in the criminal underworld…a world she had grown up in.

Officer M.: Vivieron juntos por más de diez años y tuvieron un hijo. Alicia conocía bien el mundo del crimen, sobre todo por su hermana, Pepita la Pistolera. Alicia también había estado implicada en varios crímenes.

Martina: But the year De la Torre spent planning the robbery took a toll on the couple. He was out of the house a lot. Di Tullio found herself getting jealous and suspected that he was running around with other women. Her desire for revenge was the break in the case the police needed — but Officer M. knew that getting De la Torre wouldn't be easy.

Officer M.: El testimonio de Alicia Di Tullio era decisivo y convincente, pero el fiscal Apolo sabía que eso no iba a ser suficiente para arrestar a De la Torre. Necesitaba evidencia concreta para crear un caso fuerte contra él.

Martina: By this point, Officer M. had become obsessed with the case. He felt personally affronted by the media's portrayal of the police.

Officer M.: Los medios de comunicación seguían ridiculizando a la policía. ¡Ya no lo podía tolerar más! No podía perder más tiempo, tenía que resolver este caso. Yo tenía mis dudas, pero, si Alicia Di Tullio estaba diciendo la verdad, este podía ser el principio del final de la banda.

Martina: It was up to Officer M. and his team to take Alicia Di Tullio's testimony and prove whether it was true. He was confident he could pull it off…starting with a raid, or allanamiento, on Alberto de la Torre. It took police no time at all to learn that De la Torre was living in a hotel, near his son's home.

Officer M.: Los días antes del allanamiento, mi equipo y yo sentíamos que nos estábamos preparando para un examen muy importante. Repasamos todo con mucho cuidado y conocíamos perfectamente el rol de cada agente. Estábamos ansiosos y llenos de adrenalina.

Martina: De la Torre's son lived in Flores, a middle-class district in central Buenos Aires. Officer M. had a hunch that they'd find more evidence at the son's house than in De la Torre's hotel room.

Officer M.: Primero allanamos la casa del hijo de Alberto de la Torre porque sospechábamos que el padre estaba allí. Era un domingo muy temprano en la mañana y llovía mucho. Nuestro objetivo era encontrar dinero o joyas para poder arrestar a De la Torre.

Martina: Just as officers in plainclothes were getting ready to search the house, they saw a couple leaving with a stroller, or carrito…and stopped them.

Officer M.: Los paramos a pocos metros y los revisamos. En el carrito llevaban 150 000 dólares.

Martina: A hundred and fifty thousand dollars. They were friends of De la Torre's son, who immediately came out of the house to confront the agents, thinking that they were robbers trying to steal the money.

Officer M.: En el momento en que esto sucedía salió el hijo de Beto y vio cómo los policías estaban con la pareja del carrito. Como pensó que los estaban robando, salió en defensa de ellos. Se armó una pelea en la puerta y los tres fueron detenidos. Luego de eso llegó la orden de allanamiento del fiscal.

Martina: That's when the officers entered the house. The wife of De la Torre's son was inside. They could not believe what she showed them.

Officer M.: La esposa nos dio tres bolsas de dinero y nos dijo que todo era de Alberto de la Torre. También nos dio dos pistolas y un rifle que estaba roto y guardado dentro de un pijama de niño.

Martina: Officer M. then searched a room where De la Torre had stayed briefly after breaking up with Alicia Di Tullio.

Officer M.: Había casi un millón de dólares entre moneda extranjera y pesos argentinos. Los billetes estaban cubiertos en nylon transparente y olían muchísimo a humedad. También había anillos, cadenas de oro y ocho relojes.

Martina: The police had hit the jackpot. If the jewelry matched the missing contents of the safe deposit boxes, they would have firm evidence against De la Torre. After finding the stash of valuables, and confirming that that the jewelry was indeed part of the missing loot, the police wasted no time in arresting De la Torre. Prosecutor Apolo got a Judge to sign a warrant and Officer M. started having him followed.

Officer M.: Ya habíamos investigado a De la Torre e identificado su camioneta. Hasta le pusimos un rastreador satelital y él nunca lo descubrió. Por esta razón, sabíamos exactamente dónde estaba y a dónde iba. Cuando el fiscal Apolo me dio la orden, fuimos a arrestarlo.

Martina: That's how Alberto de la Torre ended up cornered on a bridge, with nowhere left to hide. His arrest was the first crack in their otherwise airtight plan.

Officer M.: El robo que parecía perfecto no tomó en consideración un detalle muy importante: el factor humano, la traición.

Martina: Alberto de la Torre swears he was never unfaithful to Alicia Di Tullio. He was outraged over her betrayal. In his telling, her reasons for giving him up were very different…

Alberto de la Torre: Unos días antes de mi arresto, ella había tomado parte del botín que yo tenía escondido detrás de un armario. Yo me di cuenta de eso y le dije: "¡Devuelve ese dinero! No podemos usarlo, tenemos que esperar un tiempo y ser prudentes". Tuvimos una discusión muy fuerte porque no quería devolverlo, ella quería ese dinero a toda costa.

Martina: But that admission would come later. At first, after he was arrested, De la Torre denied any involvement in the bank robbery.

Alberto de la Torre: Pero eso no fue suficiente y volví a prisión, el lugar donde pasé muchos años de mi vida porque entré al mundo del robo y del crimen cuando era muy pequeño.

Martina: Officer M. had done his research on De la Torre. He knew about his past…and every minor detail of his criminal record.

Officer M.: Para mí, atrapar a De la Torre fue un éxito personal. Me sentí muy orgulloso. Teníamos al líder de la banda en nuestras manos… o eso pensábamos.

Martina: Once Alberto de la Torre was in custody, the police started going after the rest of the gang. Luckily, Alicia Di Tullio proved once again to be a treasure trove of information. She IDed five members of the gang. Officer M.:

Officer M.: La esposa de De la Torre nos había dado otros nombres, así que empezamos las investigaciones.

Martina: The police's first target was the man who, according to Alicia Di Tullio, had designed the underground tunnel that the robbers used to escape the bank. The man's name was Sebastián García Bolster, but Officer M. referred to him as "the engineer" — or el Ingeniero.

Officer M.: La casa de García Bolster, el famoso ingeniero, era muy grande, de gente de clase alta y estaba ubicada en la zona del banco. No era normal para un ladrón tener una casa como esa. Tocamos la puerta y nos abrió su padre. Le preguntamos por García Bolster y nos dijo que no estaba.

Martina: But the agents had a warrant, so they entered and searched the house anyway.

Officer M.: Inspeccionamos todos los cuartos hasta que llegamos a la cocina. Ahí encontramos un pollo en el congelador. ¿Y qué había dentro del pollo? ¡Dólares! En total había casi veinte mil dólares. ¡No lo podíamos creer! ¿A quién se le podía ocurrir guardar dinero dentro de un pollo?

Martina: To repeat: agents found money from the heist…hidden in a chicken. Prosecutor Apolo was actually in the house with the police. While conducting the search, he noticed that the light was blinking on the home answering machine in the living room. There was a new message.

Fiscal: Apreté el botón del contestador para escuchar el mensaje. Se escuchó la voz de una mujer de una compañía de seguros que mencionó el modelo y la patente del auto de García Bolster.

Martina: He had just gotten the model and plate of García Bolster's car. Within hours, another group of officers located him in a city named Villa Gesell, four hours south of Buenos Aires.

Officer M.: La policía de esa zona fue a arrestarlo con los datos que nosotros le habíamos dado.

Martina: Unlike De La Torre, García Bolster had no previous criminal record. He had spent his whole life working as a mechanic, repairing motorcycles. If it weren't for the evidence found at his house, it would have seemed unlikely that he had played a part in the heist. But the police's evidence was irrefutable.

Officer M.: Teníamos lo necesario para arrestarlo. Ya habíamos atrapado a dos de los ladrones. Yo estaba muy contento porque el robo que parecía perfecto en realidad no fue tan perfecto.

Martina: The third man the police went after was Julián Zalloechevarría. Alicia Di Tullio had told them that he was the driver the day of the robbery.

Officer M.: Este hombre venía de una familia con mucho dinero. Estudió administración rural en un colegio católico y tuvo una tienda de venta de ropa.

Martina: Again, it was hard to imagine that this man who came from a well-to-do family had been involved in the heist. But in addition to Alicia Di Tullio's statement, Officer M. had turned up another piece of evidence indicating that this man was the driver.

Officer M.: Sabíamos que Zalloechevarría había comprado una camioneta. Fuimos a una agencia de autos cerca de su casa y el gerente nos dijo que le había vendido una EcoSport nueva.

Martina: Zalloechevarría had paid for the new car — the EcoSport — in cash. This was an important clue, or pista, because this wasn't just any cash.

Officer M.: Tuvieron que contar el dinero fuera de la agencia porque estaba mojado y olía a humedad. Esa fue la pista decisiva: el olor de los billetes. El mismo olor de los billetes que encontramos en la casa del hijo de Alberto de la Torre. ¡Él era nuestro hombre!

Martina: After each of these arrests, the police would hold a press conference announcing that they had caught another one of the Río Bank robbers. Journalists Rodolfo Palacios and María Ripetta followed every new development in the case closely.

Rodolfo: Solo se hablaba del progreso de la investigación cuando la policía tenía resultados concretos. Los agentes les daban la información a los periodistas. La policía quería demostrar que los ladrones no se habían escapado.

Martina: The police were on a roll. But they had started to doubt whether De la Torre had actually been the mastermind behind the robbery. The message they left behind, the decoys, and distraction tactics… Nothing De La Torre had ever done before came close to this level of sophistication and planning. Rodolfo Palacios also had his doubts.

Rodolfo: Yo tampoco estaba seguro de quién había sido el cerebro detrás del robo. Alberto de la Torre en realidad tenía mucha experiencia y había participado en muchísimos crímenes, pero no era tan sofisticado. Esto era obra de alguien con un cerebro especial.

Martina: This is when Officer M. turned his attention to the mysterious "man in the gray suit," who had negotiated with the police from inside the bank. The media had turned him into a major figure of the crime. The only information Alicia Di Tullio could offer was that he was from Uruguay. She didn't know his name. So, to track him down, officer M. focused on his outfit on the day of the robbery.

Officer M.: Cuando investigamos las fotos del día del robo, descubrimos que el traje que tenía el hombre era de una marca especial que vendían en un centro comercial cerca del banco.

Martina: So police went to the mall to investigate.

Officer M.: Pedimos las cámaras de seguridad y pudimos ver la cara del hombre que nos había ridiculizado por horas: era el uruguayo Mario Vitette. Él era muy conocido por sus crímenes. Era un ladrón especialista en robar casas vacías.

Martina: Mario Vitette, they learned, was already back in Uruguay. The fact that he was a well-known criminal made the police wonder. What if he was the real ringleader behind the heist? He was after all, the one who had taken the lead with the police, appearing calm and in control of the situation…

Officer M.: Recordamos su actitud el día del robo. Parecía ser la persona a la cabeza de todo y el que se comunicaba con el negociador. Esa fue nuestra nueva línea de investigación.

Martina: In their diagram of the criminals, police now placed Vitette at the top, as the supposed mastermind, the man who pulled the strings…

Officer M.: Vitette tenía una personalidad irresistible y era un líder de nacimiento. Su perfil era el de alguien capaz de dirigir un grupo de delincuentes.

Martina: When the police issued a warrant for his arrest…to everyone's surprise, Vitette turned himself in. He flew back from Uruguay to Buenos Aires, knowing that he would be arrested at the border.

Officer M.: Lo atrapamos en el aeropuerto de Buenos Aires. Él sabía que no podía escapar y volvió. Mientras Vitette estaba esperando su maleta, yo caminé hacia él y le dije que tenía que arrestarlo. Vitette me confirmó que había regresado para entregarse a la policía voluntariamente. Nos felicitamos mutuamente. Yo a él por un robo tan bien ejecutado y él a mí por una investigación tan exitosa.

Martina: Meanwhile, Journalist María Ripetta was working her sources in the police department. Once a week, she had lunch with a detective who kept her up to date on the investigation. Thanks to these lunches, she was able to land a coveted interview with Mario Vitette.

María: Vitette era un personaje peculiar; era seductor, dramático y elocuente. No se declaraba ni culpable ni inocente. Su juego era claro y su táctica era crear dudas. Vitette era famoso en el mundo del crimen por robar casas y escalar edificios para entrar a los departamentos. Era conocido como el Hombre Araña. Pero había algo que no me convencía… Había algo en la personalidad de Vitette que me decía que él no podía ser el cerebro detrás de todo esto.

Martina: But Officer M. was satisfied with the case he was building — he had conducted four successful arrests, including the flashiest catch of them all, the man in the gray suit. Yet he still hadn't exhausted all of the leads Alicia Di Tullio had given the police. She had also mentioned a fifth man…someone who didn't show up in any police records.

Officer M.: Nos faltaba un hombre: Fernando Araujo. Él era un verdadero enigma para nosotros. No estaba en ningún registro de la policía, ni de las prisiones, ni nada.

Martina: Police were able to locate a man named Fernando Araujo living in Buenos Aires, so the police wiretapped several people who knew him, just in case. While tracing one of those lines, agents found repeated calls from a place called Bauchazeta, a rural area thousands of kilometers from Buenos Aires. Officer M. began to suspect that Araujo might actually be the guy they were looking for.

Officer M.: Los agentes de la zona habían detectado a un hombre que no era del lugar y que usaba a menudo una cabina telefónica. Nos dijeron la zona que frecuentaba y por eso decidí viajar al lugar. ¡Yo quería arrestar personalmente a Araujo!

Martina: To reach the spot where the police thought Araujo was hiding, agents had to drive on rough roads through an extremely remote area. In an effort not to spook Araujo, they posed as aid workers from Unicef. They even wore vests and hats with the organization's logo.

Officer M.: Era un lugar remoto, en medio de la montaña. Dormimos en una escuela rural mientras afuera estaba nevando. Éramos veintiocho policías esperando para atraparlo.

Martina: For the final stretch of the trip, the officers had to ride on horseback because there were no roads up into the mountains where Araujo was supposedly hiding. After several hours, they made it to an old, abandoned mountain shelter.

Officer M.: No había absolutamente nada alrededor. Solo la naturaleza y los Andes a la distancia. ¿El hombre más buscado en Argentina estaba aquí, en medio de la nada? No lo podía creer.

Martina: As they approached the rundown shelter, they could see a tent beside it. Officer M. approached slowly…inside he found Fernando Araujo.

Officer M.: Había muchos periódicos con todos los artículos acerca del robo al Banco Río alrededor de él. Les había dicho a los guías del lugar que estaba ahí para meditar y en un viaje de exploración personal y espiritual.

Martina: Officer M. had caught all five of the thieves, and he was sure he had already caught the heist's mastermind. Fernando Araujo was just the last domino to fall. But as Officer M. looked at the man in the tent, he thought to himself…Fernando Araujo, this man meditating in the middle of the woods, could he have a lot more to do with the heist than he'd let himself believe?

Officer M.: Le confiscamos un GPS, una cámara digital y los elementos de supervivencia necesarios para una larga temporada solo en el desierto. Entonces, mi instinto me dijo algo… Este era el verdadero jefe de la banda.

Martina: To recap: Alicia Di Tullio's betrayal leads to the downfall of the robbers. But with most of the group in custody, the police still haven't answered a central question: Who is the person who dreamt up this audacious plan that has made fools of the police?

Alberto de la Torre: Nunca había escuchado un plan como este. Y la verdad, estaba loco por participar en él. Era un plan perfecto. Yo quería cometer el robo más grande del mundo para finalizar mi carrera de toda la vida.

Martina: That's next week on El gran robo argentino — The Great Argentine Heist…

The Duolingo Spanish Podcast is produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media. You can find all of the episodes and transcripts at podcast.duolingo.com.

Credits

This episode was produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media.

Producers: Tali Goldman & Alejandro Marinelli
Editor: Catalina May
Managing Editor: David Alandete
Executive Editor: Martina Castro
Mixing: Andrés Fechtenholtz & Martín Pérez Roa
Mastering Engineers: Martín Cruz & Antonio Romero
Sound Designer: Antonio Romero
Original Music: Antonio Romero
Production Managers: Mariano Pagella & Román Frontini