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Bookstore Owner Arrested in Plot to Kill San Diegan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The owner of a Hawthorne sex bookstore was arrested on charges that he tried to hire a killer for $15,000 to assassinate a San Diego man he suspected of having an affair with his wife, the FBI said Friday.

Allen Eugene Morrison, 56, of Tarzana was taken into custody without incident late Wednesday at the Hollywood Park Race Track, said FBI spokeswoman Karen Gardner.

Police also arrested Ted Gaswirth, 58, of Dade County, Fla. The two suspects are longtime friends who both run businesses distributing sexually explicit materials, said agent William A. Gavin of the FBI’s Miami bureau.

Morrison, owner of the Wildcat Adult Book Store in Hawthorne, traveled to Florida in late June and met with Gaswirth to arrange the killing, the FBI said in a complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

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Morrison believed a family friend, Joseph Steingold of San Diego, was romantically involved with his wife of more than 30 years, Gavin said.

In Miami, Morrison gave Gaswirth $15,000 in cash to hire the killer, the FBI said. Morrison also provided Steingold’s photograph, home and business addresses, as well as information about his vehicles and schedule, the FBI complaint said.

A few days later, Morrison met with the hired “hit man,” who was actually an undercover FBI agent, Gavin said. Gaswirth also told the undercover agent that if the killing of Steingold went well, he would be hired for other killings.

On Wednesday, FBI agents searched Morrison’s bookstore at 11013 Hawthorne Blvd. for evidence in the case, but the FBI declined to say if anything was found.

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Both men were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to travel across state lines to commit murder. They could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison and $20,000 in fines if convicted. No bail has been set for either man.

Morrison faces a 2 p.m. bail hearing Monday before U.S. Magistrate Robert M. Stone in Los Angeles, Gardner said. A similar hearing is scheduled Monday for Gaswirth in Miami.


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