An informant may have played a central role in disrupting a brazen scheme to steal millions of dollars last week from a Santa Rosa armored car company, according to court documents released Wednesday.
The would-be robbers, allegedly led by a man accused of stealing nearly $1 million from Garda Armored Car Services a year ago, intended to return to the company's warehouse last week and drive away with an armored car full of cash, prosecutor Bob Waner said in court.
"It was a huge and sophisticated conspiracy," Waner said during a hearing Wednesday.
Wednesday's bail hearing provided the first bits of new information since police last week announced the arrests made with the assistance of the FBI.
On Aug. 6, the night of the planned heist, the unidentified informant joined two brothers accused of orchestrating the attempted robbery, according to court documents. The three strapped on body armor and black tactical clothing and drove to the company's Northpoint Parkway warehouse, according to court papers.
The suspects planned to steal an armored vehicle and drive it to a cabinet shop less than two miles away that was being used as a safe house, Waner said.
It is not clear why the robbery was not carried out. The following day, law enforcement authorities arrested three Santa Rosa men accused of planning the robbery: brothers Monico and Juan Dominguez, ages 39 and 26, and Shawn Geernaert, 33.
All three pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges carrying potential life sentences.
The elder Dominguez is accused of stealing nearly $1 million during an August 2011 holdup at Garda. In that heist, a group of masked gunmen slipped through a door at the company's offices and made off with the money, Waner said.
Prosecutors said he enlisted his younger brother and Geernaert to return to Garda last week for even more money.
Geernaert is accused of offering his Dutton Meadow cabinet shop as a place to stash the truck for a period of time necessary to steal its entire contents, according to the criminal complaint.
Monico Dominguez also solicited help from a third person -- an unnamed confidential informant who met with him and his brother, discussed plans and drove with the two to the Garda warehouse the night of Aug. 6, according to the complaint. Monico Dominguez was armed with a gun, the complaint says.
That same night, Geernaert provided the elder Dominguez with a combination to the lock on his cabinet shop so the brothers could hide the truck there, the complaint says.
Geernaert's lawyer, Joe Stogner, said his client had no knowledge of any plans to rob Garda. Stogner argued that he should be released on a promise to appear, citing his deep roots in Sonoma County and lack of a criminal record.
"The allegations are his business was going to be made available," Stogner said. "But the evidence is deficient."
But Judge Robert LaForge denied Stogner's request, calling the charges "extremely serious." Bail for Monico Dominguez remained at $5 million, and his brother's bail was kept at $2 million.
The men are due back in court Wednesday to set a preliminary hearing.
In open court, Waner described the alleged scheme to rob Garda earlier this month as "unusual in the historic magnitude of the case."
Shelters for Pawnee fire evacuees
Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake St., Lower Lake, is the official shelter established for people evacuating from the Pawnee fire. It is equipped to handle animals.
The Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks, is not authorized by the Office of Emergency Services but is also sheltering fire evacuees, mostly people in campers and RVs who want their animals with them.
There is an authorized Lake County animal services station in an open field at Highway 53 and Anderson Ridge Road in Lower Lake.