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USC fraternities will replace lawn ornaments allegedly stolen for party

Frat members
A group of fraternity members from USC walks along Almansor Street in Alhambra to hand out flowers and yard ornaments to residents on Thursday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Hoping to undo the damage and “embarrassment” allegedly caused by five USC fraternity pledges, a group of fraternities announced plans to replace the lawn ornaments and plants taken from front yards in Alhambra.

Students told police that the stolen items -- everything from a statue of Buddha to plants uprooted from the ground -- were to be used for an upcoming frat party, authorities said.

In response, members from USC’s Tau Kappa Epsilon, Theta Xi, Phi Delta Theta, Beta Theta Pi, Alpha Gamma Omega, Pi Kappa Phi and Sigma Alpha Mu now plan to purchase and deliver new plants and lawn ornaments to residents Thursday afternoon.

The actions of five USC students, who were arrested early Wednesday on suspicion of grand theft-related offenses, has made the USC fraternity and overall Greek system “look bad,” TKE fraternity President Joe Mallick said.

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“The majority of us are good people,” he said, adding that the students’ “poor decisions” should not reflect Greek life.

The fraternity members planned to wear USC shirts Thursday, so that Alhambra residents would know “that Trojans believe in service to others and we want to show that when some of our own make a mistake, we are there to make it right,” according to a statement.

The five students, who have been released from custody, were candidates for Sigma Nu membership at USC.

They were arrested Wednesday after a witness reported seeing them in the 300 block of North Almansor Street about 1:17 a.m., running back and forth from homes to a black pickup truck, Alhambra Police Sgt. Gerald Johnson said.

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Police said they stopped the students in the truck, which had a USC sticker on the rear window.

The truck bed was filled with palm fronds and tree trunks. Some plants had been completely uprooted while others were hacked off.

Inside the truck, police said, they found lawn ornaments, including statues of ducks, a cat and Buddha.

“This is not what we stand for,” said Tanner Sandoval, president of the USC Interfraternity Council, which oversees the university’s Greek system.

USC administrators as well as Sandoval’s group plan to investigate the incident and look into whether the fraternity asked the students to take the plants or whether they acted on their own, he said.

Sigma Nu’s pledge program is on hold while the incident is investigated, Sandoval added.

“We really want to make it right,” he said.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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