Fred Beteta, an unsuccessful candidate for state Assembly in the recent election, was bound, gagged, assaulted and robbed of cash and his car Tuesday, allegedly by two knife-wielding men he had previously employed in his Santa Monica home, police said.
Beteta, 61, a longtime Santa Monica College trustee and retired engineer, suffered minor knife "nick" wounds in the attack, which occurred about 1:15 p.m. in his home on the city's south side, said Santa Monica Police Lt. Robert Thomas.
"I thought I was going to die," said Beteta, who said he was slashed in the ear and had his face repeatedly pushed into the floor. "They kept roughing me up, asking me where the money was in my house."
After tying Beteta's hands and feet behind him with nylon cords, the two assailants escaped with about $60 from his wallet and stole his maroon 1978 Toyota Cressida, Thomas said.
Beteta said a jewelry box belonging to his wife, Lucy, also was stolen, but that he did not notice it until after he filed the police report.
Beteta, a Republican who challenged Assemblyman Tom Hayden in the race for his 44th District seat, said two young men had approached him about three weeks ago, saying they were hungry and looking for food.
Beteta said the men told him they were illegal aliens from Mexico. He said he did not know if they came to his house randomly or if they noticed his home address printed on a campaign mailer.
A staunch conservative who was born in Nicaragua, Beteta said he took pity on the men and gave them some yard work in exchange for food and about $20 apiece.
Beteta said the men returned Tuesday asking for more food, and that he again gave them some yard work. Beteta told police that after letting the men into his house so they could wash their hands when they were done, they brandished butcher knives and tied him down.
Beteta said that despite being bound, he managed to maneuver his hands to dial operator assistance to ask for help. Telephone company officials notified police, who arrived at Beteta's home at 1:40 p.m. to find that he had just freed himself, Thomas said.
The men, whom Beteta described as being of medium height and build and in their early 20s, are still at large, according to Thomas.
Beteta said he thought the attack illustrated a growing danger in Santa Monica posed by transients attracted to the city by its feeding and social service programs.
"We are creating a haven for these people here, not realizing we're creating trouble at the same time," said Beteta. "People are getting victimized by attempting to be compassionate."
Thomas, the police daytime watch commander, said people "should be very careful of the people they hire to work in their yards."