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Trial begins for man accused of robbing Santa Rosa armored car depot


SAN FRANCISCO — A reward-seeking informant, eye-popping surveillance gadgetry and a bit of police theater helped detectives nab a Santa Rosa man accused of robbing an armored car company of more than $900,000 and plotting a second unsuccessful heist a year later.

That's what emerged Wednesday in the federal trial of Monico Dominguez, 41, who is charged with masterminding the two capers against Garda Cash Logistics on Northpoint Parkway in southwest Santa Rosa.

Dominguez faces life in prison if convicted of the brazen 2011 robbery in which he and other masked men are accused of storming the nondescript warehouse with assault rifles and overpowering employees.

Prosecutors allege he attempted to launder the stolen cash through a series of bank deposits and by making large cash purchases, such as a Harley-Davidson and a classic car, before scheming to hit Garda again the next summer.

The plan was to drive off with an armored car loaded with even more money, prosecutors said. But the theft was foiled before it could happen with the help of a would-be accomplice who reported Dominguez to FBI agents and Santa Rosa police.

Det. Brian Boettger testified Wednesday in U.S. District Court that Kevin Jensen of Sacramento provided the break in the case against the man he met years before in juvenile hall in the hope of getting a $100,000 reward from Garda.

"It was strictly financial," Boettger said of Jensen's motivation.

Boettger said during the week leading up to the planned Aug. 6, 2012 heist, Jensen was given a GPS-equipped rental car, a room at the Flamingo Hotel and coaching from detectives on how to set up Dominguez.

He agreed to wear hidden audio and video recording devices, including a micro-camera in the button eye of a baseball jersey, as he participated in planning with Dominguez and a nephew, Juan M. Dominguez Jr.

A second tiny camera was hidden in a coffee cup in his car's center console, Boettger said.

On the night the robbery was to take place, officers staged a fake emergency at the apartments next to Garda so Dominguez would call it off, Boettger said.

It was planned to look like a real domestic violence scene and included male and female detectives playing fighting spouses, Boettger said.

It worked, he said. Dominguez cancelled the robbery after driving up and seeing police and fire vehicles with lights flashing, he said.

"Obviously, we're not going to let a robbery occur," Boettger said.

Dominguez and two other men were arrested the next day.

The detective's testimony came during the third day of trial for Dominguez, charged in an 11-count federal indictment that includes money-laundering and attempting to pay Jensen for his silence.

The informant, Kevin Jensen, is expected to take the witness stand Friday morning. It was unclear what if any reward money he has received to date.

Also expected to testify for prosecutors is former co-defendant Shawn Geernaert, 34, of Santa Rosa, who owns a cabinet shop where prosecutors have said Dominguez planned to hide the armored car.

Geernaert is not facing any charges arising out of the Garda case, his lawyer Joe Stogner said.

Juan M. Dominguez Jr. settled his case and was sent to prison.

Prosecutors will hold a separate trial for a fourth defendant, Juan Partida, a former Garda employee who is accused of aiding and abetting Monico Dominguez. Details of his alleged involvement were not revealed Wednesday.

Meanwhile, state charges against Dominguez have been dismissed, said his lawyer, Jai Gohel of San Francisco.

Gohel suggested Wednesday that the $149,000 in cash deposits his client is alleged to have made since the Aug. 11, 2011 robbery came from his work constructing indoor marijuana growing operations around Santa Rosa.

During cross-examination of Santa Rosa police Det. Vaughn Andrews, Gohel remarked on the lucrative nature of Sonoma County's marijuana trade.

"The money is explained in other ways," Gohel said during a break. "It was not from a robbery."

(You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.)