On September 15, 2005, after twelve years on the FBI’s most wanted list evading capture abroad, Heather Tallchief marched into the United States Marshals office in Las Vegas, Nevada with a lawyer to turn herself in. In 1993, the 21-year-old ex-nursing assistant had successfully executed a $3.1 million dollar heist, one of the largest in Las Vegas history, alongside her then-boyfriend Roberto Solis. The two had escaped abroad together and evaded capture for years until she decided to turn herself in in 2005. Tallchief, now 49, tells the wild tale in her own words in Netflix’s new docuseries Heist.
Tallchief, a 21-year-old girl from Buffalo, New York, first met Roberto Solis, who was 48 at the time, at a San Francisco bar. As she explains in the documentary, her work around terminal cancer and AIDS patients at the hospital had been impacting her emotionally, and she was let go from her job after she turned to drugs to cope. She met Solis during this tough time in her life, and he showed her affection and introduced her to a new world of sex magic, mysticism, and crime.
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Born in Nicaragua in 1945, Solis was a convicted murderer twenty-seven years her senior when Tallchief met him. He had previously been sentenced to life in prison after shooting and killing a guard during a botched armored car heist in 1969 at a San Francisco Woolworth’s store. But he was released two decades later in 1991, after his poetry, penned under the name Pancho Aguila, garnered critical acclaim. He wrote five books during his incarceration that amassed a fanbase of writers, who petitioned for his release and asked for the parole board to grant the artist leniency. A parole violation for selling drugs sent him back to prison briefly, but afterwards he returned to San Francisco, where he met Heather.
The couple soon after relocated to Las Vegas. There, Heather took a job with Loomis, the same armored car company that Solis had attempted to rob in 1969. According to Heather, she didn’t put those two things together at the time.
On October 1, 1993, less than two months after she’d started the Loomis job, Heather Tallchief drove away in her armored work vehicle with three million dollars inside while her co-workers were inside the Vegas hotel Circus Circus loading up the ATMs. She drove to a storage unit where her boyfriend Roberto Solis was waiting, they transferred the money into their getaway car, shipped it to Miami in boxes, and drove to the airport where they hopped on a chartered airplane in disguise. After zigzagging across the country to throw off the police, they wound up in Miami for some time before eventually flying to St. Maarten, all while evading FBI capture.
Courtesy of NETFLIX
The police’s trail dead-ended in Miami with no further leads. They worried for the 21-year-old’s life in the company of a convicted murderer. There were America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries episodes about Heather. “A lot of people thought it was a great thing, you know,” Heather’s father Fred Tallchief told Dateline. “This 21-year-old kid gets away with $3 million dollars, she rips off the casinos, the insurance companies, like a Robin Hood. She beat the system. That’s the way they looked at it…It’s a 21-year-old kid with money, with a convicted murderer. My worst thought was he dumped her in the ocean for $3 million.”
The couple eventually acquired fake documents and made their way to Amsterdam from St. Maarten, where Tallchief became pregnant. As she tells in Netflix’s docuseries, she left Solis not long after she had the baby, desiring a normal childhood for her son—which she was able to achieve, working as an escort and then a hotel maid to support them. In 1997, she obtained a fake United Kingdom passport and began using the name Donna Marie Eaton. She soon after fell in love again and spent the following years leading a mostly normal life, raising her son with her partner.
But when her son turned ten, Tallchief had had enough of living a lie. She wanted him to be able to travel to the United States eventually, obtain citizenship, and live a normal life. So she wrote to a U.S. lawyer, flew to California, and made her way to Vegas to turn herself in in September 2005. She was 33 at the time. “I’m doing this for him. I feel that by turning myself in and surrendering, I can give him a better life, one that he deserves,” she said.
Facing 10 felony charges, Tallchief pleaded guilty to bank embezzlement, credit union embezzlement, and possession of a fraudulently obtained passport. “You get very tired of running. This is not a life, because I have been assuming something else that’s not my life. If you’re living in a prison mentally, then what is a box, a room, restricted privileges? It’s nothing compared to what I’ve already been through. I truly feel like I’m setting myself free,” she said at the time. Facing up to 40 years in federal prison, Heather’s defense argued that she had been brainwashed, manipulated, and ordered to commit the crime by her older boyfriend at the time. She was sentenced to five years and ordered to pay $2.9 million dollars back to Loomis, the armored car company.
Tallchief was released in 2010 and spent the following five years under federal supervision. As Netflix’s series shows, she now lives in the United States, works in healthcare again, and is close with her son, Dylan, who graduated from college in 2019. She chose to enlist an actress to recreate her interview for the docuseries for the sake of her privacy and safety.
But where is Roberto Solis now? Still a wanted man. Tallchief has not heard from or seen Solis since she left him in Amsterdam, and suspects he is now dead. If he is still alive, however, he would be 76 years old today, and would have managed to evade FBI capture for 28 years.
Which would make his 1993 heist with Tallchief a pretty damn near perfect crime.
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire, where she covers pop culture and television, with entirely too narrow of an expertise on Netflix dating shows.
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