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2 suspects nabbed in Berlin poker heist

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GEIR MOULSON | March 17, 2010 05:31 PM EST | AP

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BERLIN — A man who admits he took part in a brazen daylight raid on a poker tournament in Berlin surrendered to authorities and identified three suspected accomplices, one of whom was later arrested, officials said Wednesday.

Authorities had been hunting since March 6 for four suspects who, armed with a revolver and a machete, stormed into the tournament at a downtown Berlin hotel and made off with euro242,000 ($332,000) in jackpot money.

Images of the masked men were captured on surveillance cameras.

The 21-year-old German turned himself in on Monday. Officials declined to give further details about him.

During questioning, he admitted to his involvement and named his three accomplices, prosecutor Sjors Kamstra told reporters.

Arrest warrants were issued for the three. Their Berlin addresses were searched on Tuesday, but they weren't there and "we assume they're on the run," investigator Stefan Teller said. Officials wouldn't speculate on where they might be.

Authorities issued photos of the three – Ahmad el-Awayti, 20, of undetermined nationality; Jihad Chetwie, a 19-year-old German; and Mustafa Ucarkus, a 20-year-old Turkish citizen. They said they did not have further suspects.

All three suspects already are known to German police in connection with previous suspected offenses including robbery and bodily harm.

El-Awayti was arrested at a central Berlin subway station on Wednesday afternoon. Police said he acknowledged to officers that he was being sought by authorities and was arrested without putting up any resistance.

Officials said the car the robbers used, a Mercedes, has now been found. The money, however, hasn't yet been recovered.

The man who turned himself in has told officials that "the money was divided up immediately after the crime," said Frank Heller, a prosecutor.

He has indicated that he will pay back his share of the loot via his lawyer, but it is currently "with a third party," Heller added, without elaborating.

The man told investigators that he took a look at the venue in advance, "took a look at where the money is, how the money is secured, are there guards, are the guards armed," Heller said.

"And when he saw that the guards didn't have guns, they decided that they had a chance."