A vandalized window facing Ventura Boulevard at Epic Salon in Encino. (Courtesy of Epic Salon )
For months, someone roamed the streets of Beverly Hills and Encino, shattering plate glass windows at dozens of businesses and homes. Some suspected wayward youths until a witness saw the vandal in the act.
He described a graying man in his 50s seated in a silver SUV wearing white gloves, calmly firing metal marbles from a slingshot across six lanes of Ventura Boulevard in broad daylight.
From that description and other clues, police arrested an unlikely suspect: a 58-year-old investment advisor named Michael Steven Poret, who lives in the hills of Encino and works at the Rodeo Drive office of UBS Financial Services in Beverly Hills.
Los Angeles police detained Poret on suspicion of up to 50 acts of vandalism last week in an early morning raid at his Encino home, where they discovered an arsenal of slingshots, marbles, BB guns and firearms.
Beverly Hills police also arrested Poret earlier this month on suspicion of more than 20 window smashings, including two in the 700 block of Roxbury Drive.
Detectives are trying to determine whether he's responsible for attacks in Topanga Canyon and Van Nuys earlier this year.
LAPD Det. Luie Velasquez said officials are still stumped by the motive. He said their best theory is that the suspect was after excitement.
"For whatever reason, these individuals get some kind of thrill from smashing windows," he said.
Poret did not return several calls seeking comment,
The vandalism has been costly for merchants on Ventura Boulevard, where fearful store owners now point their security cameras at the street instead of their stores. Stefan de Nocker owns an office building that was struck three times. Repairs cost him $7,000.
"After the fourth window was broken, he took out the gloves, put them on the seat and drove away like it was nothing," De Nocker said. "It was totally crazy."
Reports of window smashings on Ventura Boulevard had been escalating for months, authorities said. The vandal worked mostly at night and on weekends and appeared to target businesses indiscriminately, breaking the windows of coffee shops, office buildings and an autism treatment center.
Witnesses described the vandal as "matter-of-fact, blending in with the scenery," Velasquez said. "Then [his attack] would be so sudden." He appeared to be in no hurry, sometimes firing and reloading up to five times before driving away at normal speeds, the detective said.
On July 3, a Beverly Hills patrol officer stopped Poret for a vehicle code violation. The officer spotted a slingshot in Poret's vehicle, and during the stop his radio buzzed with a report of another window-smashing in the immediate area. Poret was arrested after a search of the vehicle revealed slingshot projectiles, knives and brass knuckles.
Poret refused to answer questions, authorities said. After both arrests he was released upon posting bail later in the day. Charges have not been filed.
According to a report from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Poret was a broker at Merrill Lynch for 12 years and has worked as an investment advisor at UBS Financial Services since 2008.
After his arrest Thursday, the firm placed Poret on administrative leave, said Karina Byrne, the company's spokeswoman. Byrne said the company would not comment further until the criminal investigation was concluded.
Jeff Swaner, owner of Epic Salon on Ventura Boulevard, had his windows smashed twice in the space of a month. The first time he shrugged and filed a police report, but the second time he began to fear for the viability of his 19-year-old business. Each window costs $2,500 to replace, and his insurance company was getting impatient.
"We moved to Ventura Boulevard to get more exposure, but we didn't expect this," Swaner said. "It just shows how little you know about people."