LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A former Lake County Sheriff’s deputy and two other local men arrested on Wednesday during federal raids in Middletown are accused of having been involved in home invasion robberies in and around Lake County, according to court documents filed this week.
Eric Van Mendonca, 42, and Terry Jacksen, 46, both of Middletown, and Jack David Pollack, 54, of Hidden Valley Lake were arrested on Wednesday morning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as Lake County News has reported.
The initial court appearance for the three men was on Thursday morning in San Francisco federal court, according to case documents.
FBI agents raided the 160-acre property Mendonca rents at 18795 Grange Road, where Jacksen also lived in a trailer, as well as Pollack’s home at 19280 Deer Hill Road, according to court records filed in the case.
FBI searches of the properties yielded numerous pieces of evidence, including firearms, methamphetamine and marijuana, handcuffs with “LC Jail” engraved on them, and a series of cell phone pictures showing Jacksen and two other individuals posing with firearms and dressed in Lake County Sheriff’s Office t-shirts and uniforms, case documents revealed.
Mendonca, a former Lake County Sheriff’s deputy and Petaluma Police Department officer who was reported to have been retired out of the sheriff’s office on a disability about a decade ago, is charged with conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce.
Pollack was arrested for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance; 18 pounds of processed marijuana were found at his home, the complaint said. Jacksen was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm, with two rifles, a shotgun and handgun seized during the search of his residence.
The complaint against the three men explained that the Lake County Sheriff’s Office recently had informed the FBI about a series of unsolved home invasion robberies in and around Lake County.
The sheriff’s office specifically referenced multiple home invasion robberies “where the perpetrators had dressed in what appeared to be police uniforms” to commit the crimes, the complaint stated.
One of those incidents occurred on Oct. 4 at a residence in the 21000 block of Yankee Valley Road in Hidden Valley Lake, where 48 marijuana plants valued at $96,000 and a variety of other items were taken, according to the complaint.
The victim reported that he found a male subject – believed to have been Pollack – peeking through one of his residence’s windows, the complaint said. When they spoke, the suspect said he was there in response to a well water maintenance service call. The victim said the water worked fine and followed the suspect down the driveway, watching him get into a white truck that had tools, tool cabinets and metal pipes.
Several hours later, two men dressed in brown Lake County Sheriff’s Office button-up shirts with collars knocked on the victim’s front door. One of the men carried a revolver in his waistband and the other was holding a shotgun, with one of the men wearing a white rancher style cowboy hat, court documents stated.
“The subjects told the victim that the ATF was in town and had observed marijuana on the victim’s property and that they wanted to do a search of the interior of the house before their sergeant and others arrived,” according to the complaint. “Three friends of the victim were present with him at his residence. The subjects conducted pat searches on the victim and his friends and then restrained them using handcuffs and zip ties.”
The two subjects then searched the home looking for “powders, other drugs, and money,” taking the victim with them in an upstairs bedroom away from his friends, court documents said. The victim saw through his window two trucks coming up the driveway, one of them the white truck he had observed the first subject getting into while leaving the property earlier in the day.
The complaint said one of the victim’s friends saw a fourth subject that the home invasion crew referred to as “sarge,” who “appeared to be running the show. The subjects then exchanged the handcuffs for zip ties and left the victim and his friends tied up. The subjects left behind two sets of sunglasses and a silver-colored star badge in the backyard marijuana grow area.
The next day, one of the victim’s friends told a Hidden Valley Lake security guard about the robbery, and the security guard said Pollack had a well pump business and his truck matched the description of the one seen at the victim’s home, adding Pollack was “always up to no good,” the complaint said. Later that night, the security guard drove by Pollack’s home and noted that there was a strong smell of marijuana.
The victim and his friends began searching for Pollack on the Internet and found pictures of him advertising for his business, Pollack and Sons Pumps, as well as his booking photo on the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Web site. “The victim definitively recognized Pollack as the same person who came to his residence for the well maintenance before the home invasion robbery,” the complaint said.
Court documents explained that the victim positively identified Pollack in a photo lineup shown to him during a meeting with FBI agents on Dec. 13, and at the same time picked out a picture of Jacksen, who agents believed was present at the robbery.
In addition, court documents explained that the FBI was told by a confidential source that Jacksen and Mendonca had been part of a crew taking part in multiple home invasion robberies in and around the county, with Jacksen having told the source about taking marijuana during one of the robberies and wearing police uniforms.
Mendonca also had told the confidential informant about the robberies, noting that he was upset after one of the home invasion robberies because someone from the robbery crew had left Mendonca’s flashlight – which was police-issued – at the victim’s property, the complaint explained.
Mendonca had told the source that he was worried the police may be able to trace the flashlight back to him since it was part of his police gear and had a serial number on it, the complaint noted.
Jacksen has at least three prior felony convictions – including convictions for spousal abuse and possession of narcotics for sale, according to court records.
Lake County court records showed that Pollack has a lengthy criminal history, and was sentenced to state prison for seven years in April 2007 for charges including transportation and sales of a controlled substance.
During the Wednesday search of Jacksen’s trailer agents located a cell phone with pictures of Jacksen and two other individuals dressed in Lake County Sheriff’s Office t-shirts and uniforms, and one of them wearing an ATF hat, with the picture date-stamped Oct. 4, 2012, the same day as the Yankee Valley Road robbery, the complaint said.
The agents also seized two rifles, a shotgun, a revolver with a holster that matched the description of those seen by the victim, a user quantity of methamphetamine and a user quantity of marijuana in mason jars, a white rancher style cowboy hat and a pair of handcuffs engraved with “LC Jail,” according to the complaint.
The court documents said deputies who worked with Mendonca when he was on the force told FBI agents that “LC Jail” engraved handcuffs were issued to all deputies when they started working with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
In Mendonca’s home the agents found a set of handcuffs, a police style flashlight, and at least eight rifles, shotguns and pistols, court filings said. At Pollack’s they found 18 pounds of processed marijuana, multiple digital scales, a ledger resembling a pay/owe sheet, plastic bags, multiple jars labeled with different marijuana strains, an unknown number of Fentanyl pills, a powerful opiate, and two toy guns.
The guns found in Jacksen’s trailer all were manufactured out of state and traveled in interstate commerce, the complaint said.
If convicted, Pollack and Mendonca each are facing a maximum of 20 years in prison, with Jacksen facing 10 years, according to the charging document. Jacksen and Mendonca also could each be fined up to $250,000; Pollack could receive a fine as high as $1 million.
Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.