Reported by Patch Local Editor Melanie Johnson:
A group of five suspects-- three from the San Gorgonio Pass-- arrested in April and charged with a series of bank burglaries in Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights recently pleaded not guilty to the charges.
An arraignment for defendants Laurentiu Penescu, a 38-year-old Yucaipa man, 32-year-old Lucian Isaia of Beaumont, Alceu Andreis, 44, a Banning resident, Dean Andrew Muniz, a 45-year-old Fontana man, and Daniel Soto, a 36-year-old Riverside man was held June 24 in Pomona Superior Court where the defendants entered their pleas, said Jane Robison, a Los Angeles County District Attorney's office spokeswoman.
The defendants are expected to return to court Aug. 22 for a preliminary hearing.
The Los Angeles County sheriff's Major Crimes detectives arrested the five Inland Empire men April 5 after the alleged burglars cut a hole in the roof of the Citibank at Diamond Bar Boulevard and Grand Avenue. The detectives had been doing surveillance of the men and arrested them right after the alleged burglary.
The suspects reportedly climbed ladders to get on the roof and used power tools to cut through, giving them access to a cement vault inside. The suspects used handheld radios to communicate with one of the men who acted as a lookout, authorities said. The men wore matching uniforms, including shoes, and reportedly rode in a van with the license plate removed.
The five men are believed to be responsible for at least three similar bank jobs in Diamond and Rowland Heights, with losses from previous crimes estimated to be in the millions, according to sheriff’s investigators.
“These are not your typical burglars,” said Lt. Kent Wegener of the Major Crimes Bureau after the arrest. “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.”
Each suspect was held on $500,000, except for Soto, whose bail was set at $3 million.