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Security Firm Owner Arrested in Vandalism : Crime: Sheriff Block says businessman and 2 others were trying to discredit company guarding one of oldest Jewish cemeteries in city.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The owner of a security company and two others were arrested on suspicion of vandalizing tombstones and writing anti-Semitic slogans at a Jewish cemetery in East Los Angeles as part of a scheme to discredit the firm now providing security there, authorities said Friday.

Among those arrested was a security guard at Home of Peace Cemetery who allegedly cooperated with the owner of the rival firm to discredit his employer, A.G.D. Services Inc. of Los Angeles.

At first, Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators believed that the Wednesday night incident may have been a hate crime. More than 24 tombstones were knocked over and Nazi swastikas, Ku Klux Klan “KKKs” and devil worship slogans were painted on some walls and tombs.

But Sheriff Sherman Block, who announced the arrests at an afternoon news conference, said: “This was motivated by profit.”

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The sheriff said the owner of C.D.T.A. Security, Roger Ricardo Sapien, 27, of Rosemead wanted to obtain the security contract from A.G.D., where he once worked.

He said Sapien, with the aid of Gilberto Castillo, 18, also of Rosemead, and Ronald William Gurule, 21, of Downey entered the cemetery sometime Wednesday night and committed the vandalism.

The three were booked for investigation of vandalism of a religious cemetery, a felony. Sapien also was booked for theft of security dogs.

Investigators said they were suspicious of Gurule, a cemetery security guard employed by A.G.D., through information that they would not describe. He was on duty at the cemetery when sheriff’s deputies initially arrived to investigate, Block said.

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Information led investigators to Sapien’s home in the San Gabriel Valley, where they found three guard dogs recently stolen from the cemetery, Block said.

Cemetery officials and the operators of A.G.D. Services declined comment on the incident or the security contract.

Block said the contract did not appear to be particularly lucrative. “This was just an attempt to secure business,” he said.

Sheriff’s investigators were cautious in handling the case because of the apparent hate-crime nature of the vandalism and the fact that the cemetery, which has been in East Los Angeles since 1902, is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Los Angeles, Block said.

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“But (hate crimes) are very unusual in that community (East Los Angeles),” Block said, adding that local hoodlums used the graveyard several years ago for an initiation that had nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

“It didn’t make any difference to them if it was a Jewish cemetery, a Chinese cemetery,” Block said of the gang members.


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