A federal judge sentenced Banning man who led a group of burglars that conducted a 10-year-long series of heists targeting Southland banks.
The bank burglars got into the banks by cutting through rooftops to 20 years in federal prison for participating in two burglaries, according to officials.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Dale S. Fischer ordered the 48-year-old Alceu Johnny Andreis to pay $12,082,403 in restitution to two financial institutions, their insurance carriers and numerous safe deposit box customers.
Following a jury trial in December, Andreis was convicted of two counts of bank burglary in relation to thefts from an East West Bank branch in Rowland Heights in 2011 and a BBCN Bank branch in Diamond Bar in 2012.
Andreis was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 10 years for each of the burglaries.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Andreis led a crew of rooftop bank burglars for at least a decade.
Andreis and his crew burglarized the victim banks after detailed and thorough planning, which included “casing” the banks, learning about the bank’s security systems, and conducting numerous “dry runs” of the heists. Prior to the actual burglaries, they cut holes in the roofs of the banks and resealed them so as not to arouse suspicion.
During the burglaries, members of the team wiped down their equipment to ensure no DNA or fingerprints were left behind, communicated via walkie-talkies, disabled the banks’ security systems, re-opened the pre-cut rooftop holes, jackhammered holes into the banks’ thick concrete vaults and rappelled down into the vaults.
Once they had access to the vaults, the burglars opened dozens of safe deposit boxes to steal cash, jewelry, coins and other valuables inside, and they took the cash inside the vaults.
During the planning and actual burglaries, Andreis and his crew had a lookout person to warn of potential witnesses or law enforcement.
Andreis “ensured that his burglary crew worked out together, drug-tested, wore identical clothing and shoes, cleaned the tools, planned the burglaries together, and evenly split the burglary proceeds,” prosecutors noted in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court.
Andreis was one of four defendants convicted in relation to the bank burglaries. The other three defendants pleaded guilty, and two have been sentenced, receiving prison terms of up to 10 years.
The Los Angeles Times in a 2014 story reported that the defendants left a clue behind. Sheriff’s forensic specialists lifted some DNA from the surface and tied it to another member of the crew, Dean “Dino” Muniz, of Fontana.
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 into the bank, according to the Times.
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.
One more defendant is pending sentencing before Judge Fischer.
In 2014, in another case involving the attempted burglary of a Citibank branch in Diamond Bar, Judge Fischer sentenced Andreis to 51 months in prison for conspiracy and attempted burglary. The 20-year sentence issued yesterday will run consecutively to the 51-month sentence.
Andreis and his co-defendants were arrested while attempting to burglarize the Citibank branch, according to officials.
Judge Fischer on Monday issued an order that forfeited from Andreis two Mercedes-Benz automobiles and four Ducati motorcycles that he had purchased with cash obtained during the two burglaries.