Netflix’s new docuseries Heist explores three of the biggest heists in modern American history through the perspective of the people who committed them. The show opens with the story of Heather Tallchief, who stole millions in Vegas casino money when she was 21 years old. She managed to evade capture for nearly 12 years until 2005, when she walked into a federal courthouse in Las Vegas and surrendered.
Tallchief is portrayed by Lisa Lord via dramatizations in the show, and it’s unclear where she is in real life now. But in the early aughts, she was one of the most high-profile fugitives in America. Per The Buffalo News, Tallchief is Seneca and grew up in Buffalo, New York. Her parents divorced when she was two and she was raised by her father, who had alcohol and substance use disorder. Her upbringing was marked by “two bad parents,” her dad admitted to CrimeReads. (In 2005, one of her attorneys told Buffalo News that she still has family in the Buffalo area, but “she has not been in contact with them for many years.”)
Per The New York Times, Tallchief told investigators that because she was ostracized at school, she immersed herself in the punk rock scene and later struggled with substance misuse. She attended Williamsville South High School and moved away around 1987. Afterward, she obtained a general equivalency diploma and then a nursing assistant certificate, which she used to work in an AIDS hospice in the San Francisco Bay Area. Per CrimeReads, patients described her as empathetic, but her mom surmised that seeing patients die led Tallchief to “worry about money, or people dying” in her own life.
Due to her substance use, Tallchief had trouble holding down jobs. According to the Times, she met her suspected accomplice — armored car robber and convicted murderer Roberto Solis — after “hitting bottom.” He was more than 20 years her senior, and they met through a friend at a nightclub. At Solis’ suggestion, Tallchief moved to Las Vegas with very little money in 1993. She alleged to investigators that he brainwashed her for weeks by showing her tapes that “opened your mind but made you more receptive to suggestion,” per the Times. According to Tallchief, it was Solis who convinced her to carry out the heist, and she followed his instructions “almost like a robot.” (The official criminal complaint does not say who masterminded the scheme but describes the pair as having planned it and carried it out together).
Tallchief claimed that Solis persuaded her to become a driver for Loomis Armored, where she was known by her coworkers as an “ideal employee,” per Crime Reads. On Oct. 1, 1993, while making a stop at the Circus Circus Casino hotel, Tallchief took off with the truck she was driving and the nearly $3 million inside of it. There was no GPS or tracking at the time, so Loomis couldn’t figure out where she went.
By Tallchief’s account, she drove the truck to a garage she had leased under a false name and helped Solis load the money into boxes and suitcases. She claimed that she had no idea what happened to the money afterwards. “[Loomis] wouldn’t ever answer,” Tallchief explained to investigators, per The New York Times. “When the subject came up he would say things like: ‘Don’t worry about it. I’m taking care of it. It’s OK. It’s safe. I’ve got it under control.’”
The two escaped the United States in disguise, with Tallchief dressed as an old woman in a wheelchair. They settled in Amsterdam and had a son; Tallchief worked as a hotel maid. But Tallchief said that Solis didn’t treat her well, and she didn’t want her son to have to live as a fugitive. So on Sept. 12, 2005, she returned to America, traveling using a British passport with the name of Donna Marie Eaton. After being taken into custody, she admitted her role in the crime and hoped that by selling her story to Hollywood she could pay back Loomis and support her son. She said she hadn’t seen Solis in years, and that all the money was with him.
“It’s a lonely life, being a fugitive,” she said in her taped confession, per CrimeReads. “I certainly don’t go to book clubs and cake sales and stuff … 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.”
On March 30, 2006, Tallchief was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison and ordered to try and repay, over the remainder of her life, $2,994,083.83 in restitution to Loomis. She was released from prison in the summer of 2010 and has since kept a low profile. It’s unclear how much of the money she has been able to pay back since then. Solis and the money have never been found. If he’s still alive today, he would be over 75 years old.