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Activists' Home Raided in San Diego Arson Probe

August 20, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Federal agents raided the home of two San Diego animal activists last week as part of an investigation into a $50-million arson claimed by the Earth Liberation Front, the costliest act ever allegedly committed by the underground group.

David Agranoff said that about a dozen agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent three hours searching his home Thursday, taking a computer, documents, protest fliers, a video camera and videotapes.

Jan Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the FBI's San Diego office, confirmed the raid but declined further comment.

In an e-mail sent Monday to reporters, the Earth Liberation Front's press office said the fire apparently targeted rampant urban development, but said it had not been in contact with those responsible. No one was injured in the fire.

The underground group has claimed responsibility for a slew of arson attacks against commercial entities that members say threaten or damage the environment.

Agranoff, 29, insisted that all he knew about the Aug. 1 fire that destroyed a five-story complex under construction on San Diego's fast-growing northern edge came from local news reports. He said investigators would turn up nothing in the search that left his home "completely trashed."

Among other things, federal agents were seeking a videotape of a talk on animal rights and militant environmental activism delivered in San Diego on the day of the fire by Rodney Coronado, according to Agranoff, who helped arrange the lecture.

Coronado, who served four years in federal prison for a 1992 blaze at a Michigan animal research facility, reiterated Tuesday that he had no role in the San Diego attack and arrived in the city several hours after the fire broke out. He said he has not been contacted by investigators.

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