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Special Report: Charges create unease over sex offenders in Laguna

Registration shows that small clusters live in the city. Some say their privacy is being violated by Megan's Law website, Jessica's Law.

February 23, 2012|By Joanna Clay

Synonymous with art festivals and stunning beaches, Laguna Beach became the subject of unexpected attention in the fall, when a downtown rug store manager found himself accused of sexually assaulting women.

The charges against Saeid Boustanabadi Maralan raised concerns about how a registered sex offender could go about his business — some of his alleged crimes took place in the Sirous & Sons Rug Gallery at 222 Ocean Ave. — in such a closely knit commercial and residential village.

"[Crime] happens everywhere, but to have it happen right next door is kind of unsettling," Agnes "Aggie" Dougherty, a bookkeeper at the Marine Room Tavern, said at the time.

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The case against Maralan, who has pleaded not guilty to rape, battery and a slate of other charges, underscores the fact that even in the age of Megan's Law, knowing the truth about your neighbor or shop employee remains elusive.

For a variety of reasons, some sex offenders' names appear on a searchable online database, and others don't.

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Sex offenders in Laguna

Laguna Beach is home to 40 to 45 registered sex offenders, 21 of whom are publicly visible on the Megan's Law website that's compiled by the California Department of Justice.

But there are plenty offenders who are never identified on the site, which tends to track those who have harmed children or committed more serious crimes against adults. Convicted sex offenders not listed online are still required to register with police in their city of residence — but not necessarily where they work.

In the case of Maralan, for example, public records show he is registered in Laguna Niguel, where he lives. He was not required to register in the cities in which he worked, Laguna Beach and San Clemente.

Certain types of sex offenders — such as those who have single offenses of sexual battery, annoyance or molestation of a child — can apply to be excluded from registration, according to the Department of Justice. Others with single counts of incest — not including oral copulation, rape or possession of child pornography where the victim is known and more than 16 years old — can also apply.

However, as of this year, those with a risk assessment score that isn't low or moderately low can no longer be excluded.

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L.B. offenders in compliance

All known sex offenders in Laguna Beach are properly registered, Laguna Beach police Sgt. Robert Rahaeuser said. Also, there are no sexually violent predators registered in Laguna, he added.

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