Federal agents cuffed two Queens men — including an Aqueduct Racetrack security guard — on Monday for their roles in a six-figure heist at the racing venue back in March.
Lamel Miller, 37, and Lafayette Morrison, 37, face federal armed robbery charges for their roles in the March 7 caper, in which they swiped $280,000 in cash during an after-hours inside job. Authorities said Miller was picked up on June 15 at the Paramount Inn in Bellerose, Queens.
Through an investigation, federal agents later determined that Morrison, who worked at Aqueduct as a security guard, acted as an “inside man,” having provided Miller and the co-conspirator with tips about when and where the money would be moved into the vault.
“The defendants allegedly gambled that they could pull off a high-stakes robbery with the benefit of inside information, but thanks to the outstanding efforts of ATF Special Agents and NYPD detectives, they ended up on the losing end of that bet,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said on June 15.
Law enforcement sources said Miller and an unidentified co-conspirator made their move at 9:45 p.m. on March 7 as track workers, including Morrison, moved the bundle of dough into a vault. Miller and the unknown thief, while wearing surgical masks, ambushed the guards near a stairwell and forced them into a closet at gunpoint.
Miller and his cohort secured the cash and the employees’ cellphones, then fled the track. Security camera footage showed the pair walking toward a parking lot while carrying a garbage bag and a duffel bag.
Camera footage also recorded Miller, moments before the robbery, entering the Aqueduct facility while speaking on a cellphone which investigators later found discarded in a nearby trash can.
Detectives determined that particular device was a burner phone which an unknown individual bought from a Metro PCS store in Jamaica the day before the caper.
Law enforcement agents, as part of their investigation, reviewed historical cell-site records that found Miller’s actual phone and burner phone made calls on the same cell tower on March 7. Miller had made calls on the burner phone to his wife, another woman and his mother, prosecutors said.
A second discarded phone found at the track on the night of the caper was also determined to be a burner phone that Morrison used, federal agents added.
Authorities also learned that Miller and Morrison have been long-time associates; they were both arrested back in 2000 for a Queens robbery. Phone records also indicated that they had made 38 calls to each other on their actual phones between March 6 and 7.
“This alleged crew may have seen their inside job as a day at the races, but our arrests and federal complaints prove otherwise,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said. “Our partnerships, precision policing and vigilance in fighting for victims remains strong.
Both Miller and Morrison each face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.