Matoupris tell us a story: the Circus Circus Casino robbery
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Matoupris tell us a story: the Circus Circus Casino robbery

Las Vegas has long been a city regularly plagued by crime. Many have sought to line their pockets in ways other than gambling at the casino. Sometimes it works, but very often the heist doesn't go as planned and the culprits end up behind bars very quickly. But the robbery we are going to tell you about today could be considered the perfect robbery. A crime so well done that even the best Hollywood writers would not have been able to sell their script to the producers, because it seems so incredible. And even today, it remains unsolved.

At the heart of this heist of the century is a young woman, Heather Tallchief. Before becoming one of the perpetrators of one of the biggest robberies Las Vegas has ever seen, Heather was a 21 year old woman from Buffalo, New York. She works as a nurse with AIDS and terminal cancer patients. A daily job that exhausts her both physically and emotionally, to the point where she relies on drugs to keep her going. But while she is going through the most complicated period of her young life, Heather meets the person who will literally change her.

It is at this moment that she will meet Roberto Solis, a man 27 years older than her, who will not only bring her the affection and support she desperately needs, but will also introduce her to a world where mysticism, sexual magic and, above all, crime are mixed.

Who is Roberto Solis?

Born in Nicaragua in 1945, Roberto Solis is a convicted murderer. In 1969, he killed a guard during an attempted armored car robbery in front of a store in San Francisco, California. A crime that will condemn him to life imprisonment, but from which he will get out 20 years later. The reason: his qualities as a poet. His poem, published under the name of Pancho Aguila, was critically acclaimed. But that's not all! During his incarceration, Solis wrote five books that helped him create a community of fans, including authors, who campaigned for his release on parole. This he obtained and, despite a brief return to prison for a drug affair, allowed him to return to San Francisco, where he met Heather Tallchief.

A romance against a backdrop of crime

Very quickly, the couple leaves San Francisco and settles in Las Vegas in Nevada. If Heather hopes for a calm, orderly and above all legal life, this is absolutely not the case for her lover! Solis wants to become rich, by all means, and nothing and nobody will be able to prevent it. At first, Heather isn't too keen on the idea of living a life of crime, but the emotional and psychological hold Roberto Solis had on her was so strong that she would have done anything for him. No one had ever paid her so much attention, and more importantly, no one had ever given her so much affection.

Two months before the robbery, money was running out in the couple's life. They needed a job. It is then that Heather decides, on the advice of her lover, to apply at Loomis, a cash-in-transit company. At that moment, the young woman does not make the link between the company and Roberto's criminal past. She managed to get hired by the branch manager because, according to the other employees, she was "young and pretty". Her mission was simple: accompanied by two colleagues, Heather had to drive an armored car through the city, changing the money in the different casinos' machines. The beginning is complicated for her, having had her license only a few months before, her driving leaves something to be desired. The fact that she is young and has no experience in this field also raises questions. But this does not attract any suspicion, Heather is a pretty young woman of innocent appearance, what could go wrong?

Every day, she tells Solis about her days and especially about all the money she carries every day. And it is on this last point that he will insist, asking her which is the day when she thinks she carries the most money, to draw him the different routes she takes... Very quickly, what looks like simple discussions in bed will turn into a real implementation of a plan, straight out of the criminal mind of Roberto Solis.

To set up what will become one of the biggest robberies that Las Vegas has ever known, Solis leaves nothing to chance. He learns by heart the routes taken by Tallchief, follows her regularly, studies the atmosphere, the surroundings, the people... Once all this has been studied meticulously and the most lucrative day determined, it was time to put the plan into action.

The robbery

On October 1, 1993, two months after Heather's debut at Loomis, the couple decided to put their meticulously prepared plan into action. And the casino Solis chose to do so was the legendary Circus Circus Casino & Hotel, which is recognizable by its circus-like setting. Why this casino and not another? Simply because it was the first casino on the day's itinerary and, as a result, this is when the Loomis van is the most loaded. But not only that! The route taken by her colleagues was also conducive to this move: Heather had to drop them off at the back of the casino and then pick them up at the front. So for a few minutes she was totally alone with the money!

So instead of doing what she usually does and picking up her colleagues at the entrance of the Circus Circus Casino, she simply runs away with the van and the three million dollars inside! And to remind you, it's 1993, so there's no GPS tracking and therefore no way for Loomis to know where her van is. Heather drives through Las Vegas to a garage on the outskirts of town, which she has rented under a false name. There, her accomplice and lover Roberto Solis is waiting for her, and then goes to load all the money into bags and suitcases. The perfect robbery has just taken place.

The escape: symbol of the end of an idyll

After carrying out what is certainly one of the robberies of the century, the two lovebirds had to flee, because very quickly, the face of Heather Tallchief made the front page of all the television news. Heather who also wanted to know what would be the continuation, what were they going to do with all this money. Solis wants to be reassuring, while dodging the question. "Don't worry, everything is ok. I'll take care of it..."

Heather Tallchief and Roberto Solis manage to flee the United States in disguise, the young woman having disguised herself as an elderly person in a wheelchair. But not without the FBI on their tail. After stops in Denver, Florida and even Suriname, they head for Europe and more precisely the Netherlands and its capital, Amsterdam, where the two criminals will settle down, Heather even finding a job as a cleaning lady in a hotel. It is in this city that their son, Emilio, will be born. But quickly, the relation between Solis and the young woman is going to degrade. Indeed, the man shows himself abusive towards her and Heather wishes from now on to leave the daily life of fugitive and to lead a simple and normal life so that her son can grow in better conditions.

She leaves Roberto Solis and manages to obtain false British passports for herself and her son so that she can stay in Amsterdam. During the ten years that her passport was valid, she looked for a way to give her son a normal childhood. In September 2005, after nearly twelve years on the run, she decided to return to the United States to surrender to the authorities for the sake of her child. Once arrested, she admits to having taken part in the robbery. However, she denies knowing where the money is and especially her former accomplice and lover Roberto Solis.

Heather Tallchief was sentenced in March 2006 to 63 months in prison and above all to pay back the Loomis company for the rest of her life. She was released from prison in 2010 and wishes to live a quiet life, far from any media spotlight. As for Roberto Solis, no one knows where he is today or even if he is still alive. If this were to be the case, the former lover of the young woman would be 75 years old.

This heist still remains one of the most incredible robberies ever. In fact, the heist has been the subject of numerous television shows in the United States and was recently the subject of two episodes of the series Heist, released on Netflix in July 2021.

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