Picasso vandalism suspect extradited to Houston

Uriel Landeros charged with graffiti, criminal mischief

HOUSTON - After nearly seven months on the run, a man accused of vandalizing a Picasso at the Menil Collection was back in Houston on Monday.

According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Uriel Landeros turned himself in at the Hidalgo Port of Entry shortly after crossing the border from Mexico into the United States about 4 p.m. on Jan. 8. He was charged with criminal mischief and felony graffiti, both of which are third-degree felonies.

After defacing the 1929 Picasso painting on June 13, Landeros vanished and remained silent until an exclusive interview with Local 2 in November.

The 22-year-old artist, who had been hiding out in northern Mexico, detailed his motivation behind the crime that shocked the Houston art community.

Landeros said he's not apologetic for spray painting a stenciled image of a bull, a matador, and the Spanish word "CONQUISTA," which means conquest, onto Picasso's "Woman in a Red Armchair."

"(Expletive) his painting. It's just a piece of cloth. What matters most is the people who are suffering," Landeros said.

Landeros said his actions were fueled by a mixture of social and political defiance.

"I'm part of the whole Occupy movement," Landeros explained.

Landeros said he chose the 13th of June because the number refers to a power structure. He said all he wanted to do was shed light on the corruption of banks, government and large institutions in the United States and Mexico.

"If I wanted to destroy that piece, I could have done it," he claimed. "The spray paint that I used was easily taken away. I really don't give a (expletive) about the 15 minutes of fame. If anything, I made that painting more famous than what it is."

The act was caught on cellphone video by a museum patron as it happened, then posted on YouTube.

Landeros was transferred from Hidalgo County Sunday and could face a judge in Houston this week.

If convicted, Landeros would face two to 10 years in prison.

His bond has been set at $250,000 for each count.

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