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Two accused of gunpoint racetrack robbery

Two men were arrested Monday and face charges

Two men were arrested Monday and face charges in a $280,000 robbery at Aqueduct Race Track in March. Credit: Google Maps

Two men, including a track security guard, were arrested Monday and charged with the March gunpoint robbery of $280,000 from Aqueduct Racetrack, according to officials.

Track officials and law enforcement immediately believed that the robbery was an inside job because it occurred in the interior of the South Ozone Park track’s office complex, not normally accessible to the public. And the stickup occurred exactly at the time three employees, including the guard, were transporting money from public pickup locations around the facility to a vault where it was to be stored.

The robbery also occurred on Gotham Day in March, when attendance was high because the Gotham Stakes, the major race of the day, was considered a run-up to the Kentucky Derby.

The two suspects arraigned Monday on a complaint were the guard, Lafayette Morrison, 37, of Jamaica, Queens, and Lamel Miller, 37, identified only as being from Queens.

The two were charged in a complaint with robbery in interference of commerce during a telephone and videoconference hearing before Magistrate Ramon Reyes at the federal court in Brooklyn.

They were not required to enter a plea.

Neither defense attorneys for Morrison nor Miller offered a bail application so the two were held, pending future hearings. Their attorneys could not be reached for comment.

A third person involved in the robbery was not identified by officials.

According to officials, the security guard was accompanying two employees carrying the cash between buildings, when Miller and the co-conspirator, wearing surgical masks, pointed guns at them. Miller and the co-conspirator took the cash and the cellphones of the three and ordered them into a closet.

An investigation revealed that there were past links both between Miller and Morrison, and their phone use the day before and the day of the robbery, according to officials.

Miller and Morrison had been arrested in January 2000 for joint involvement in an armed robbery, according to officials.

Further, that there were 38 calls placed between Miller and Morrison’s regular cellphones the day before and during the day of the robbery, officials said,   And, in addition, investigators found that Miller had most likely bought two so-called “burner” cellphones, whose ownership is hard to trace-the day, before the robbery.

One of the burner phones had been used to make calls the day before and the day of the robbery to Miller’s wife, a girlfriend, and his mother, officials said.

On the day before the robbery, the second burner phone hit on a cell-site near Aqueduct when the track had no public events, but Morrison was scheduled to work.

And on the day of the robbery, the second burner phone hit, along with Morrison’s regular phone, on a cell tower near Morrison’s home early in the day. The second burner phone then hit on a cell-tower near Aqueduct around the time Morrison’s shift was schedule to begin, officials said.

In a statement Eastern District United States Attorney Richard Donoghue said: "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 the bet.”

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