A 22-year-old UC San Diego student has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and misappropriation of public funds--both felonies--in connection with a prank two weeks ago that left buildings on the La Jolla campus covered with bright red paisley designs.
Lee Ann Okada, a sophomore at UCSD’s Warren College, was arrested by campus police Tuesday night as she left a final examination. Acting UCSD Police Chief John Anderson said Okada is believed to be “one of the principals” in a group of about 12 students who painted more than 300 garish paisley designs on 40 campus buildings March 6.
In an unsigned letter sent to the UCSD student newspaper the day of the incident, the group said that it painted the paisleys--colorful designs popular on shirts in the 1960s--to add life to the “cold blackness of cement” around the campus. A female student claiming to represent the group called The Times the same day, saying those responsible for the “harmless” prank were “just bored people wanting to decorate the brown, dull walls of UCSD.”
However, campus officials have taken a dim view of the redecorating effort, which will cost the university an estimated $10,000 to clean up.
Anderson said Okada was charged with conspiracy because she was considered to be one of the chief organizers of the prank. The misappropriation charge was added because Okada allegedly used money from KSDT, the state-supported campus radio station, to buy the paisley stencil used to paint the designs. In addition to the felonies, Okada was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vandalism.
KSDT General Manager Adrienne Esztergar said Okada, who has worked as a volunteer artist for the station since September, asked to be reimbursed Feb. 20 for art supplies she had bought to make posters promoting a station event. One of the receipts for which Okada was reimbursed included $3.18 for a paisley stencil.
“For that she’s being charged with a felony,” Esztergar said, adding that the station will bill Okada for the $3.18.
If convicted of all charges, Okada faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine, Anderson said. Despite the severity of the charges, Anderson said Okada was “lackadaisical” in her attitude toward the arrest.
“She didn’t seem too concerned about the whole thing,” he said.
Okada was taken to the County Jail at Las Colinas, from which she was released Wednesday morning on $5,500 bail.
Okada, who lives in University City, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The phone number she had given to the UCSD campus directory was for Pacific Bell’s time service.
Anderson said the investigation was continuing and that he expected more suspects would be arrested. A spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney’s office said no information had yet been received and that it could be several days before formal charges are filed.