By Anne Gonzales and Bill Lindelof
It was a long time coming, but two men accused of robbing a California State Fair concessionaire at gunpoint two years ago are behind bars.
Gene Irvin Felder, 34, and Antonio T. Harvey, 52, were arrested by Sacramento police Thursday on suspicion of robbery and conspiracy.
The pair are accused of stealing just over $200,000. They are being held in the Sacramento County Main Jail without bail.
During the fair's run on July 21, 2010, the men allegedly gained access to a cash counting office for the Ovations foodservice company in the grandstands of the fairground's race track, while three employees were counting the day's receipts at closing time about 10 p.m. They walked out with cash stuffed into a plastic bag.
Harvey was an employee of the food service company, and had access to the cash room. According to police statements from the incident, both men were wearing uniforms of the foodservice company and had guns when they got into the money room.
A short time after the robbery was reported, Harvey called police to report that he had been kidnapped and his keys to the cash room were stolen from him, said Cal Expo police Sgt. Larry Menard.
Officials found Harvey on a street in North Sacramento with duct tape on him, Menard said. Harvey's story was discovered to be fake, police said, which led to speculation that he was involved in the robbery. Police zeroed in on Felder as a suspect through their investigation of Harvey, they said.
Sacramento police investigated the case jointly with Cal Expo police.
"It was a long investigation," said Doug Morse, a Sacramento police spokesman. "Harvey was a person of interest early because of that call. This was a complex investigation."
As part of the investigation, authorities looked for large amounts of money being deposited into banks or being spent in the area, Morse said.
Morse said the incident captured the attention of officials and the public, because of the brazen robbery was at a well-known location.
"This was an extremely high-profile case, two armed men going into a heavily populated place like the fair," he said. "We found out later that someone who worked and had access to that room and that led us to both arrests."
The concessionaire's cash counting room on the upper level of the grandstand reportedly had no security guards present or surveillance cameras.
Kristen Thompson, marketing director for Ovations, which has offices in Pleasanton and near Tampa, Fla., said at the beginning of the fair last year that the company brought in an outside consultant after the robbery and "made improvements to our security protocol per the recommendations of that consultant." She declined to elaborate on the improvements.
Ovations has an exclusive year-round catering contract to sell food and beverages at the fairgrounds, said Brian May, deputy general manager of the fair. A 20-year agreement ends this year, and Ovations was the winner of another 10-year contract that begins next year, May said.
"Immediately following this incident, our police department worked with Ovations and put together a security plan," he said.
While police worked on the case for two years, Menard said he was sure they would find the culprits.
"We never quit thinking we couldn't find them," he said. "We were confident all along we would have a case. It was a pretty serious incident and we didn't want that to go without someone being held accountable. Some investigations take time. It's one thing to suspect someone, another thing to prove it in court."
PHOTO CAPTION: Gene Felder, left, and Antonio Harvey