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Prosecutors: Methuen armored car heist was an inside job

Prosecutors say an armored car robbery in Methuen on Wednesday afternoon was an inside job, cooked up by the two guards and a third man who played the role of the robber.

Justin Levesque, 43, of Cumberland, R.I., and Eliezer Martinez, 26, of Lawrence, allegedly agreed with Willie Salazar Vasquez, 22, of Lawrence that Vasquez would rob them. Vasquez’s performance included taping up the eyes and hands of Levesque.

[fragment number=0]After committing the make-believe robbery of the Garda armored car, Vasquez went to his home in Lawrence with the stolen money and a gun he had taken from one of the guards, prosecutors said.

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Levesque and Vasquez pleaded not guilty today in Lawrence District Court. A judge set $150,000 cash bail. A pretrial hearing was slated for Oct. 14.

Martinez, who suffered chest pains after the robbery, was still in the hospital, but he was expected to be arraigned later this afternoon.

Officials said the men had stolen an estimated $400,000 in cash and checks, which the armored car had picked up on its daily rounds.

Methuen police said Monday that the armored car had been robbed after a man disarmed a guard at the Big Lots department store.

The robber commandeered the vehicle, then exited it near the intersection of Jackson and Prospect streets in Methuen. The guards then drove to the Methuen police station to report the robbery, police said at the time.

The armored car had traveled on its regular route to Methuen from Needham, according to Methuen Police Lieutenant Kevin J. Martin. Detectives and FBI agents spent Monday night dusting the vehicle for fingerprints and other evidence.

Garda did not have a comment this morning on the arrest of two of its employees.

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