Four Northern California men, including a former Petaluma police officer, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on charges of carrying out a Lake County home invasion robbery by impersonating law enforcement officers.
The four were indicted on Wednesday and arraigned before a federal magistrate in San Francisco Thursday and today.
They include former Petaluma police officer and former Lake County sheriff's Deputy Eric Mendonca, 43, of Middletown in Lake County. The other defendants are Michael Puckett, 45, of Petaluma; Terry Jacksen, 46, of Petaluma; and Jack Pollack, 54, a well-pump business owner who lives in the community of Hidden Valley Lake in Lake County.
The charges stem from a robbery of a house in Hidden Valley Lake on Oct. 4, in which two men dressed as Lake County sheriff's deputies stole two drills, a cell phone and 48 marijuana plants in the back yard that were worth $96,000, according to a criminal complaint filed earlier in the case in December.
FBI Agent Douglas Jacobs said in an affidavit filed with the complaint that a witness allegedly identified Pollack as a person who cased the residence earlier on Oct. 4 by pretending to be responding to a well-water service call.
Jacobs said witnesses reported that the two men dressed as deputies said they needed to search the residence, tied up the occupants with handcuffs and flex ties and stole the plants and other items. One of the robbers was allegedly identified as Jacksen, the affidavit says.
The FBI agent wrote that witnesses said the robbers, joined by another man who seemed to be the leader of the operation, then drove off in a white truck resembling the truck Pollack had driven earlier that day.
A search of a trailer Jacksen occupied at the time on property rented by Mendonca in Middletown turned up a cell phone showing a photo of Jacksen and Puckett dressed as Lake County sheriff's deputies less than two hours before the 6 p.m. robbery, the affidavit said.
Agents also found handcuffs belonging to the Lake County Jail. A search of Pollack's residence uncovered 20 pounds of marijuana, according to the affidavit.
The Dec. 19 complaint alleged that Mendonca stole the law enforcement uniforms used by the suspects, according to U.S. attorney Melinda Haag. All four defendants are charged in the indictment with conspiring to commit robbery, committing armed robbery on Oct. 4, impersonating officers on that date, and conspiring to distribute marijuana.
Jacksen, Pollack and Puckett are being held in custody without bail and Mendonca is free on $50,000 bond. The four men are due to return to court in San Francisco for a status conference before U.S. District Judge William Alsup, the trial judge assigned to the case, on Jan. 22.
-Bay City News