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 Deputy Arrested in Connection with Casino Robbery

Keith Bender is charged with aggravated robbery.

New Mexico- It took nearly three years, but the FBI says it has found one of three men involved in the robbery of a Taos casino. The man behind bars is a deputy with the Taos County Sheriff's Department.

FBI officials made an announcement of the arrest at the FBI headquarters down town Tuesday. Twenty-eight year-old Keith L. Bender of Taos was named as the suspect in custody. Bender has been a deputy for the Taos County Sheriff's Department for three years, and has himself put many people behind bars. Agents say Bender was one of three people involved in the robbery of the Taos Casino on January 15, 1997. Surveillance video taken by casino cameras shows Bender and two accomplices, dressed in camouflage clothing, taking the casino slot room by force.

"Clearly it's a very unfortunate time when we have to say that we have arrested a fellow law enforcement officer, but we will arrest whoever commits crimes," said Doug Beldon of the FBI.

Bender made his initial appearance in front of a federal court judge Tuesday morning. The judge ruled that there is enough evidence to hold Bender over for a detention and preliminary hearing within the next two days. He is currently being held in the Santa Fe County jail without bond on charges of aggravated robbery and committing a crime on a government reservation. The FBI is still looking for the remaining two suspects.


1998 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.