Trio get prison for tagging damages

first_imgThree men in their 20s were sentenced Thursday to 16 months in prison for prolific tagging in the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys – causing more than $500,000 worth of damage. The trio, nabbed by sheriff’s detectives, agreed to plead guilty to felony charges. “Just think of every soundwall on the 405 Freeway from the 5 to LAX – that’s the entire San Fernando Valley. Sixteen months in prison, I think, was a gift for the amount of damage they’ve done,” said Santa Clarita sheriff’s Detective Bob Schneider, who helped track the men down. Schneider teamed with Palmdale Detective Greg Bruner for a two-month investigation that culminated in the men’s arrests in mid-March. The Palmdale-based crew is responsible for more than 5,000 separate instances of tagging, Schneider said. The 30-count case, heard in Antelope Valley Superior Court, included charges for possession of firearms and drugs. Joseph Mendoza, 26, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon. He was convicted in 2002 of trafficking in cocaine. Joshua Calderon, 23, pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana for sale, and Daniel Lozano, 25, pleaded guilty to felony vandalism. While the three liberally spray-painted their crew name and monikers – tagging crew nicknames – each was charged only with tagging his own moniker. They are due in court June 13 for a restitution hearing, when a judge will determine the amounts to be paid to their victims. The district attorney has asked that Mendoza pay $57,500; Calderon, $77,212; and Lozano, $90,048. If the men do not make good on the criminal fines the charges could convert to civil fines. “If it converts to a civil judgment, then their wages could be docked and their assets could be attached,” said Antelope Valley Deputy District Attorney Maureen Green. The crew’s tagging marked freight trains, billboards, cement freeway divider rails, underpasses, overpasses and soundwalls in the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys and Kern County. Damages in Palmdale exceeded $400,000 and millions more throughout Southern California. In Santa Clarita their markings on bus benches and shelters, business walls and billboards cost more than $40,000 to delete. Overall, graffiti removal cost Santa Clarita a half-million dollars last year, and with the proliferation of tagging, investigators predict costs will rise in 2007. The city’s graffiti hotline receives about 500 calls a month. Los Angeles County has lowered the bar on felony convictions for graffiti vandalism from $5,000 to $1,000 in damages. Bruner said the crew had been vandalizing surfaces in the Antelope Valley for about five years before venturing into the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond. In Culver City and downtown Los Angeles they tagged billboards, businesses and rooftops, often defacing tall structures visible by passing motorists on the freeway. The detectives confiscated an array of spray tips imported from Germany. [email protected] (661) 257-5255last_img read more