DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A head teller of a credit union who stole more than $600,000 from the vault and then vanished for years — only to be found by police as a blood-covered, armed Durham drug dealer in 2021 — was sentenced in the case Tuesday, officials said.
Jorge Omar Navarro, 30, was found in late March 2021 when — using a fake name and ID — he claimed he was robbed by men at gunpoint in his Durham apartment, the U.S. Justice Department said.
When Durham police arrived, they found six guns, multiple kilograms of cocaine, drug paraphernalia, and $74,900 in cash, according to a previous news release about his guilty plea from the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina.
Navarro was sentenced to more than 12 years Tuesday, 147 months, after he pleaded guilty late last year to embezzling the money from his credit union in Danville, Virginia. He also pleaded guilty to drug charges related to the bust in Durham.
The wild tale of a head teller at a credit union descending into the life of a blood-covered gun-toting drug dealer started back in July 2017.
That’s when officials said Navarro began taking large amounts of cash from the URW Federal Credit Union in Danville, Virginia.
He kept taking the money for months — until Sept. 2018, authorities said. Federal officials said they have video of him taking cash.
He replaced some money in the vault with counterfeit cash, authorities also said.
In September 2018, Navarro disappeared and went for a short stay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Charlotte, authorities said. After checking out on Sept. 10, he text messaged the CEO of the credit union, admitting that he took the money, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Navarro then skipped town and went on the lam with the stolen loot — spending the next two years as a fugitive.
When he was found by Durham police just before 10 a.m. March 31, 2021, he was covered in blood and running from gunfire, officials said.
Three handguns, a shotgun, two rifles, body armor and money counting machines were found in his unit at Independence Park Apartments in Durham, officials said.
Durham police also said there was “blood throughout the apartment.”
The $74,900 in cash that police found in the Durham apartment was made from selling drugs, Navarro admitted, a previous news release said.
“He claimed that he was trafficking cocaine to pay back the bank,” federal officials said in a factual basis document.
Durham police said they found him when they responded that March morning about a disturbance with a gun at the apartments at 215 William Penn Plaza.
It’s unclear where the $617,000 went during Navarro’s two years on the run.
Durham police said he told them that men robbed him of $200,000 on March 31, when gunshots were fired — bringing the police and an end to his run as a fugitive and drug dealer.
“Credit for putting an end to the spree goes to officers of the Durham Police Department, whose thoroughness revealed that the defendant was in fact a drug trafficker and a fugitive from justice,” U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Hairston said in a news release.
Navarro pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime for his conduct in Durham, officials said.
In the Virginia incident, he pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and one count of using counterfeit currency with the intent to commit fraud.
Navarro’s sentencing took place Tuesday in Winston-Salem where he faced a minimum of 10 years in prison, with a max of a life sentence. The verdict decided was more than 12 years along with $628,600.43 in restitution, the Middle District of North Carolina told CBS 17 on Wednesday.
WFXR-TV contributed to this report.