Two of the three former co-workers convicted of stealing more than $1 million from 24/7 Private Vaults have been granted a new trial.
The vault company was robbed in 2012 and burglarized in 2014, soon after the company had filed for bankruptcy.
In a federal hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon ruled that prosecutors did not prove that Sylviane Whitmore and Larry McDaniel knew the company had filed for bankruptcy.
The rare decision only applies to the case involving the 2014 burglary and comes just months after jurors delivered a guilty verdict.
McDaniel was convicted of charges stemming from that burglary only, and defense attorney Todd Leventhal said he is confident the government will not prove its case a second time.
“Rarely do judges take a jury’s decision and just tear it up,” Leventhal said. “We’re very happy that Judge Gordon did the right thing and overturned a conviction that I thought was wrong in the first place.”
Jurors in June found Whitmore and Phillip Hurbace guilty of planning and carrying out the 2012 robbery. Hurbace did some work for the company until 2010. Whitmore also was convicted of money laundering and interstate transportation of stolen property.
McDaniel was convicted of money laundering and multiple counts of stolen property in connection with the 2014 burglary.
After the verdict was read, Whitmore hollered into the courtroom.
“I didn’t do it! I’m sorry, I didn’t do it,” Whitmore said as she shook her head and pointed at McDaniel. “And neither did he. We’re not guilty.”
The 24/7 Private Vaults building stood in the middle of a half-vacant strip mall east of the airport. Its late founder, Elliot Shaikin, touted the business as safer than banks.
Clients had keys to safe deposit boxes, used an iris scan to access the vault and signed paperwork with an “X” to keep their identities secret. Up to $70 million in cash and valuables were stored there.
But the promises of around-the-clock monitoring by armed guards were not true, attorneys said.
And how much was taken during the crimes is unknown, as most of the vault’s customers never came forward.
Prosecutors argued that both the robbery and burglary were inside jobs and connected the defendants to cash purchases, bank statements and Hurbace’s knowledge about bypassing the security cameras.
Charges were filed against the trio on April 11, 2017, several days before the five-year statute of limitations for the robbery would have run out.
The insiders knew when only one security guard would be on shift, prosecutors said. They also knew how to circumvent the security and enter the vault through the ceiling, they argued.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Nevada declined to comment on the judge’s ruling.
Sentencing in the case is scheduled for April 21.