Three of five Inland Empire men who stole millions of dollars by using power tools to cut though building roofs to gain access to cement bank vaults were sentenced today in Los Angeles to federal prison terms ranging from 37 to 51 months.
Alceu Johnny Andreis, 46, of Banning, Lucian Gabriel Isaia, 33, of Beaumont, and Laurentiu Penescu, 39, of Yucaipa, each pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to commit bank burglary and attempted bank burglary.
Andreis was sentenced to the 51-month term, while Isaia and Penescu each received 37-month terms, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. All three were ordered by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer to serve three years of supervised release after they leave prison.
Andreis had special knowledge of how to break into bank vaults through the roof, a method perfected during nearly two decades of cutting holes in roofs and burglarizing many business, including a branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles and a church, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Rhoades.
The bank burglaries, in the Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights areas, "involved extensive surveillance, multiple nights of work, and a crew necessary to complete the various tasks," Rhoades wrote in sentencing papers.
Andreis and his accomplices "knew how to select a bank with a penetrable roof; locate the vault from overhead using a sonar device; cut a hole in the roof and install braces to keep the removed section in place until their subsequent return," the prosecutor wrote.
The five men linked to the crimes were arrested in April 2013 following a year-long investigation that involved a surveillance operation by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, who were on hand when the suspects tried to rob a Citibank branch in Diamond Bar.
Recovered evidence included a portion of the bank's roof, roofing material, two-way radios, tools, gloves and ski masks.
The men were linked to rooftop heists at an East West Bank in Rowland Heights in 2011 and the BBCN Bank in Diamond Bar in 2012.
Nearly a decade ago, Andreis, Isaia and Penescu were imprisoned for a series of Riverside County rooftop heists in which more than $3.5 million in cash and gems were stolen from jewelers in Palm Springs and Temecula, as well as other businesses, according to prosecutors.
Two other defendants have pleaded guilty in the case.
Daniel Soto, 37, of Riverside, is set for sentencing on June 30, and Dean "Dino" Muniz, 46, of Fontana, was sentenced by Fischer last week to 10 years in federal prison.—City News Service