Tagging trail leads to Internet

The Associated Press
Updated: 01/30/2009 12:00:27 AM PST

Bragging finally did in the Metro Transit Assassins, a notorious graffiti tagging crew believed to be responsible for painting the largest tag in the city: the giant block letters “MTA” along a quarter-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River’s concrete banks.

The arrest of seven suspects Wednesday came after sheriff’s deputies tracked the crew through an Internet video interview of several of the suspects about the huge tag, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Cmdr. Dan Finkelstein. He said the tag had garnered fame in the graffiti underground.

“It was some kind of cry for attention,” he said.

In the interview, the suspects detailed how they and others painted the three- story-high letters, using 300 gallons of white paint and 100 gallons of black over four nights, Finkelstein said.

One of the suspects, Cristian Gheorghiu, a 32-year-old Hollywood resident who goes by the crew name of “Smear,” was already known to authorities – he’s on probation for a similar offense in 2007, police said. He’s also known in the formal art world – he’s sold graffiti-art works in downtown Los Angeles galleries.

Authorities have long been frustrated by the MTA. The moniker is a mocking reference to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, whose buses and trains are among the crew’s favorite targets for defacement.

Finkelstein said the tagging group, which probably has 20 to 40 members, has defaced thousands of pieces of public property over the past decade with increasing boldness.

One crew member has the transportation authority’s logo tattooed on his calf; another has a diamond-and- ruby pendant of the logo worth $29,000, Finkelstein said. “We’re going to investigate that for copyright infringement,” he added.

The crew also had printed stickers featuring the MTA initials against a Los Angeles skyline. The stickers, known as “slap tags,” are commonly stuck on traffic signal boxes, he said.

During raids of the suspects’ homes, sheriff’s deputies confiscated marijuana plants and packaged marijuana, and paint-covered fire extinguishers that taggers typically use to paint overpasses while hanging upside down over the railings. They also seized cell phones and computers that contain evidence such as credit-card purchases of paint and the identities of other members.

The massive MTA tag, which was painted almost a year ago, will cost $3.7 million to remove, according to estimates by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Graffiti along the riverbed is expensive to remove because the runoff paint must be captured so it does not run into the river.

The other arrested suspects include Shaun Alexander, 27; Sergio Ayala, 25; Eduin Miramontes, 23; Nicholas Rem, 28; Juan Rocha, 22; and Ryan Swenson, 27.

Posted by on Jan 30 2009. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Tagging trail leads to Internet”

  1. Orange Boyz

    Their going to use millions to remove that? Who thought of this bright idea? Just cover it with another piece of art. These useless politicians…they really need philosophers in government.

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