Three members of rooftop bank burglary ring sentenced to prison

Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, left, announces in April 2013 the capture of the alleged members of a bank burglary ring that cut through the roofs of bank branches to access their vaults.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Three of five members of a Inland Empire bank burglary crew accused of stealing more than $16 million by using power tools to cut through building roofs were sentenced this week for an attempted Diamond Bar heist.

Their terms ranged from 37 months to 51 months when the sentences were handed down Monday in federal court in downtown Los Angeles.

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 in connection with a 2013 break-in at a Diamond Bar Citibank branch.


The three have been charged so far only in connection with that bank heist. Detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s major crimes unit arrested them shortly after they left the bank, having cut a hole in the roof and covered it up with plans to break into the vault the next day.

U.S. District Court Judge Dale S. Fischer sentenced Andreis to a 51-month term, while Isaia and Penescu each received 37 months.

Andreis received the larger sentence after Assistant U.S. Atty. Justin Rhoades filed a sentencing memo arguing Andreis had special knowledge of how to break in to bank vaults from overhead thanks to nearly two decades of cutting holes in roofs and burglarizing businesses.

Another member of the crew, Dean “Dino” Muniz, 47, of Fontana, has already begun serving a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to bank burglary. A fifth member, Daniel Soto of Riverside, has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Investigators believe the veteran burglars had been slicing through rooftops under the cover of darkness to access vaults for years.

At an East West Bank branch in Rowland Heights in 2011, $1 million in cash was stolen and safety deposit boxes containing $14 million in valuables were emptied.


The Preferred Bank location in Diamond Bar was hit a few months later, but the job was abandoned. In September 2012, thieves broke into the vault of the BBCN Bank branch in Diamond Bar, taking $2.43 million in valuables.

But the burglars left a clue behind: the plastic back of a walkie-talkie. Sheriff’s forensic specialists lifted some DNA from the surface and tied it to Muniz.

The men were arrested after detectives trailed them for several months. The detectives began staking out the Diamond Bar Citibank, and the men eventually moved to break in to the bank.

In April 2013, as the five men drove away from the bank on the 60 Freeway, sheriff’s deputies swooped in and arrested them.

Andreis, Isaia and Penescu were convicted nearly a decade ago of several Riverside County rooftop thefts. In those heists, more than $3.5 million in cash and gems were stolen from jewelers and other businesses in Palm Springs and Temecula.

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