A man caught looting homes vacated during the West fire in San Diego County in July has been convicted of breaking into one and trying to get into a second.
Ardian Iseni, 30, faces up to seven years and four months in state prison when he is sentenced Oct. 26, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
The 500-acre West fire broke out July 6, south of Interstate 8 in Alpine. Flames destroyed 34 homes and 21 other buildings, and damaged 20 more homes and buildings.
Iseni was arrested the next day, while some evacuation orders were being lifted.
He was already on probation for an earlier East County burglary, Deputy Dist. Atty. Shane Waller said.
On July 8, a resident posted a notice on the Alpine Community Network website that she had caught a looter on Sage View Drive.
He had a tote bag with jewelry in it, the unsigned notice said.
“I caught him entering a home but got him BEFORE he got in. He had just opened the door. So the jewelry is from other homes in our area,” the resident wrote.
Waller confirmed that a neighbor saw Iseni peering into the window and jiggling the doorknob of a home while carrying a woman’s purse.
Other neighbors moved in and detained him until a district attorney’s office investigator, who was helping with evacuations, came to help. Sheriff’s deputies then arrested Iseni.
Waller said the jewelry was mostly costume pieces from the victim’s mother and her husband’s Navy campaign medals and dog tags from his three tours of duty in Vietnam.
A three-day trial last week ended Friday with a jury finding Iseni guilty of one count each of residential burglary and attempted burglary.
Waller said Iseni will be sentenced next month for the Alpine looting case and the probation violation.
Repard writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.