Officers with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Transit Bureau arrested two suspected graffiti vandals and are searching for a third suspect after serving search warrants Tuesday at their homes in Whittier and El Monte.
The three men are members of a tagging group called PCN, which stands for Painting City Nightly or Painters Causing Nightmares, deputies said. They are accused of causing $338,000 in damage to freeway bridges and L.A. County properties. They started tagging about 1 1/2 years ago, officials said.
German Lara, 21, was arrested without incident early Tuesday at his home in the 1200 block of Danbrook Drive in Whittier.
"This is a message to all taggers," said Lt. Vincent Carter. "If you don't stop tagging, we come to your houses at 7 in the morning, break down your door, wake you up and take you to jail."
Lara's mother opened the front door when deputies arrived and was cooperative. Later, she sat crying on the sidewalk. Lara was smiling as deputies arrested him. Three siblings also were home when deputies arrived.
Lara, who uses the tagging moniker Move, is responsible for $109,000, including $12,000 in damage to a railroad bridge owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, deputies said. His brother described him as the family's "black sheep," and one sister said he had refused to attend school, choosing instead to "hang out all night," deputies said.
Deputies seized several spray cans and a computer at Lara's house. Deputies said the computer contained pictures showing his alleged graffiti. They searched a second building in the backyard but found nothing.
Hours later and a few blocks away, Andrew Pineda, 20, of Whittier, who uses the tagger name Bogus, was arrested at his workplace. He is accused of causing about $109,000 in damage, including $30,000 to MTA property and about $79,000 to properties owned by the state of California and Union Pacific.
The third suspect, James Matthew Rivera, 20, whose tagger name is Supa or Supah, was not at his El Monte home when deputies arrived. He is accused of causing $120,000 in damage.
His grandmother, Amelia Reyes, 72, who lives at the house on Fruitvale Avenue with at least three of her 11 children and two other grandchildren, told deputies she did not know about Rivera's alleged tagging activities. His aunts said Rivera was a calm person who did not talk much.
Deputies seized a laptop from the Reyes home.