Laguna Beach merchant and sex offender is arrested in four attacks
A Laguna Beach rug store owner accused of sexually assaulting a female customer in April 2010 and raping an employee a month later was not arrested until last week -- nearly a year and a half after the incidents were reported and during which time he allegedly harassed a minor and attacked another woman.
Saeid B. Maralan, who is a registered sex offender, was taken into custody Thursday in connection with sex crimes involving four victims. Orange County prosecutors said Tuesday that he is charged with rape, attempted forcible rape, sexual penetration by foreign object and distributing pornography to a minor.
In each case, the victim reported the crime within a day of the incident, said Farrah Emami, a district attorney’s spokeswoman. The case was turned over to prosecutors on Friday.
Laguna Beach police said their investigation was hampered by two victims they described as "uncooperative." In addition, police sent in an undercover female officer, but she left the store as Maralan was "about to go further," Lt. Jason Kravetz said.
Laguna Beach began investigating Maralan, who operates Sirous and Sons in the city, in April 2010 after he took a female customer to a storage room where he grabbed and kissed her, according to prosecutors. As she tried to flee, Maralan allegedly pulled down the victim’s pants and attempted to rape her. He then pulled down her shirt to expose a breast and licked her before ejaculating, according to prosecutors. The woman reported the assault that day.
Then in March 2011, a 17-year-old female intern reported to Laguna Beach police that Maralan had shown her pornography. Police subsequently served a search warrant on Maralan and the store and uncovered evidence of the pornography.
On Aug. 13, Maralan allegedly struck again, this time sexually molesting a potential female employee during a job interview.
The first two victims reported the crimes but refused to cooperate with investigators, police said, adding that they asked the department to drop the investigations. "Obviously, we don’t just drop cases. With two outstanding cases, our detectives tried to talk to the victims into changing their minds," Kravetz said.
When that failed, police sent an undercover female detective into the store.
"She got into the back area with him. Right as he was about to go further, she stopped and left the store,” Kravetz said.
The department used a second undercover female detective from another department who pretended to be a customer. "He asked her out for dinner and asked if she would go to Europe with him … but he did not make any sexual moves on her," Kravetz said.
Kravetz said the investigation finally got a break when the 17-year-old intern came forward with exact details of him showing her online pornography. Police were able to verify the account with a forensic examination of the computer.
"He knew we were looking at him because of the search warrants in March 2011. But he still committed another assault after we did that," Kravetz said.
Emami said Maralan has a prior conviction for sexual battery. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 34 years to life in state prison. Maralan is being held in lieu of $1-million bail and due in court Tuesday.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Saeid B. Maralan. Credit: Orange County district attorney's office