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Five suspects in elaborate bank robberies arrested

Police believe the crew stole $6 million by cutting through San Gabriel Valley bank roofs at night and using power tools to empty vaults.

April 11, 2013|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

The bank heist crew didn't carry demand notes or confront tellers. The robbers' tools of choice included power saws, hand-held radios and ladders.

They allegedly walked away with at least $6 million by cutting through the rooftops of San Gabriel Valley banks under the cover of darkness, according to law enforcement authorities. Once inside, the men used power tools to break into concrete vaults, then fled with bags of cash.

Bank heists: An article in the April 11 LATExtra section about a series of nighttime heists at San Gabriel Valley banks described the crimes as robberies and the criminals as robbers. The crimes were burglaries, committed by burglars. —

On Wednesday, authorities announced that five Inland Empire men had been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the unusual bank robberies. The arrests came after investigators searched for clues for more than a year and gathered DNA evidence from crime scenes.

"It is one of the most elaborate crimes we have seen," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said at a news conference. "This is something out of a movie script."

Authorities said the arrests occurred Friday, when several men with walkie-talkies drove a van without a license plate to the CitiBank in Diamond Bar and cut their way inside. Undercover detectives, who had been monitoring the bank, swooped down and arrested the men before they could leave.

"These are not your typical burglars," sheriff's Lt. Kent Wegener said. "They showed some sophistication in their planning and the execution of the actual crime. Our team of detectives worked long and hard to put a stop to their crime series."

Authorities identified the suspects as Laurentiu Penescu, 38, of Yucaipa; Lucian Isaia, 32, of Beaumont; Alceu Andreis, 44, of Banning; Dean Andrew Muniz, 45, of Fontana; and Daniel Soto, 36, of Riverside. All were booked at the Walnut Sheriff's Station.

Each was held on $500,000 bail, with the exception of Soto, whose bail was set at $3 million. Some of the men allegedly met in jail and prison and have criminal records, according to authorities.

The men appeared in a Pomona courtroom Friday and were charged with a variety of burglary, conspiracy, grand theft and vandalism counts.

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