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Man arrested on suspicion of vandalizing political signs in San Bernardino County

October 19, 2010 |  7:04 pm

DEBENEDET A Highland man was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of tearing down and destroying political signs after a surveillance operation staged by a city councilman and a group of concerned citizens, authorities said.

Michael Debenedet, 49, was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor vandalism after he was taken into custody about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department.

According to the department, Debenedet was nabbed through an investigation by Highland City Councilman Ross Jones and others. Politicians and service organizations have seen their campaign signs and event announcements vandalized over the last five years, and when the vandalism started again this time, people took matters into their own hands, said Arden Wiltshire, public information officer for the sheriff’s department.

Jones and others staked out the area where the signs were being destroyed and used “high-tech imaging equipment” to “establish a routine” for the suspect, according to authorities.

Debenedet was placed under citizen’s arrest Tuesday morning after Jones allegedly spotted him pulling signs out of the ground and destroying them. When deputies were called to the scene, they found Debenedet hiding in the bushes behind a learning center, authorities said.

Investigators are continuing their probe and believe there may be enough offenses to amount to felony charges, according to the sheriff's department. Anyone with information is asked to contact Deputy Aaron Halloway of the Highland sheriff's substation at (909) 425-9793.

-- Victoria Kim

Photo: Michael Debenedet Credit: San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department