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Police: USC students stole lawn statues, plants for frat party

A group of USC students with an odd sense of what it takes to throw a cool fraternity party were arrested early Wednesday after allegedly raiding an Alhambra neighborhood for plants and lawn ornaments — including a Buddha.

The students, who were released from custody, were candidates for Sigma Nu membership. But now they are at the center of an investigation not just by police but by Sigma Nu Fraternity Inc.

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"Sigma Nu Fraternity was founded on the honor principle and is dedicated to our mission of developing ethical leaders for society," Brad Beacham, executive director of Sigma Nu Fraternity Inc., said in a statement. "We will not tolerate unlawful conduct. We have begun an investigation of this matter and will take appropriate action once all facts are known."

The students were apparently candidates to join the Epsilon Omicron chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity at USC, according to a statement.

They told police they had planned to use the plants and statues for an upcoming fraternity party, Alhambra police Sgt. Gerald Johnson said.

The identified students are: Eyobed Tsehaye Mesfun, 19, of San Jose; Dylan Avery Walter, 19, of Huntington Beach; Miles Anlian Horton, 18,  of Albuquerque; Gramham Wilson Vines, 18, Austin, Texas; and Darshan Sanjay Patel, 18, of Newport Beach.

A witness saw the five students cruising through the 300 block of North Almansor Street about 1:17 a.m., running back and forth from homes to a black pickup truck, Johnson said.

Police eventually spotted the students in the truck, which had a USC sticker on the rear window. They noticed its bed was filled with palm fronds and tree trunks. Some plants were completely uprooted while others were hacked off.

Inside the truck, police found lawn ornaments, including several duck statues, a cat statue and a Buddha.

Details about the fraternity party were not immediately available. The fraternity began recruiting new members in August, when they held a barbecue, house tours, catering at a Hollywood mansion and went to a driving range and sailing, according to their website.

The students are due in court Nov. 10, Johnson 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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