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Gold prospector statue tagged with graffiti

May 27, 2009 | 10:30 am

Statue275 The statue of a gold prospector in the Carthay Circle area can't seem to get a break.

Last year, thieves looking to cash in on a then-booming market in precious metals stole the 512-pound, bronze statue from its perch at San Vicente Boulevard and McCarthy Vista before it eventually was recovered at a Los Angeles scrap yard.

Now, just months after it was repaired and reinstalled, someone added insult to injury by spraying graffiti on the nearly century-old monument.

Resident Jon Armstrong said he noticed the word "Jew" written in black spray paint on the prospector's pan during the Los Angeles Marathon on Monday and notified police. The reaction wasn't exactly proactive.

"It was not high on their agenda for that day," said Armstrong, who said he ended up calling the mayor's office to report the vandalism.

Sculpted by Henry Lion in 1924 and 1925, the prospector, along with a fountain, commemorated 19th century settlers in California.

In February 2008, thieves cut the prospector free from its mooring to a boulder and made off with the statue valued at $125,000.

Detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department's art theft detail tracked down the statue -- which had been sliced in two -- at a local scrap yard, where it was purchased for $900. Two men were sentenced last July to 16 months in state prison in connection with the thefts.

The prospector was one of three public statues stolen in Southern California in a nine-month period in 2007 and 2008, including a 6-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide bronze taken from its concrete stand in front of a business in Brea.

The high price of metals -- which have since fallen with the onset of the global recession -- was believed to be the driving force behind the rash the thefts.

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Miner statue at San Vicente Boulevard and McCarthy Vista. Credit: Jon Armstrong