$1.5M drug ring busted, who are the 21 students and staff from UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke arrested for dealing?

The alleged drug dealing happened between 2017 and 2020 when more than $1.5million worth of goods were shipped from California

                            $1.5M drug ring busted, who are the 21 students and staff from UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke arrested for dealing?
Brianha Haskell and Zachre Abercrombie (Wake County Public Records)

Twenty-one people, including some current and previous students of Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Appalachian State University, have been accused of dealing thousands of pounds of marijuana, hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and other drugs on campus and in fraternity houses, federal prosecutors said on Thursday, December 17.

According to prosecutors, the alleged drug dealing happened between 2017 and 2020, when more than $1.5million worth of goods were shipped from California through USPS and then distributed in North Carolina, where Duke and UNC's campuses are located about 10 miles apart.

According to Matthew GT Martin, the United States attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, those accused were part of a sophisticated network that serviced a “drug culture” at organizations and universities in North Carolina. They funneled huge amounts of cocaine and marijuana as well as LSD, steroids, Xanax and other drugs into the universities and the neighboring towns over the past several years, he said, sometimes operating right out of their fraternity houses.

“This is not a situation where you have single users, where you have a 19-year-old sipping a beer, where you have someone taking a puff of a joint on the back porch of a frat house,” Martin said at a news conference. “These are 21 hardened drug dealers.” A full list of the fraternities allegedly involved in the case is not yet been released but they include UNC chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma and Beta Theta Pi. 

The DEA inquiry started in 2018 after the department was informed about drug dealing at UNC, police said. Some of the first arrests were made in July this year and authorities said they have been working since then to piece together the operation they called "astonishing". Five people were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

They are Andrew Gaddy, 24, Travis Michael Evans, 27, Dane Lamber Simon, 23, Brianha Nicole Haskell, 24, and Mariela Zavala Mendoza (aka Maria Ochoa), 25. Other indictments took place in July, October and December and brought charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine against another eight suspects. They are Zachre Abercrombie, 27, Amber Johnson, 24, John Holloway, 23, Devin McDonald, 23, Jason Nitsos, 24, Devon Pickering, 35, Edison Robles, 26, and Jason Xu, 23.

An additional eight people were charged with a variety of drug offenses in October and December.  They are Chandler Anderson, 27, David Bayha, 21, Kyle Beckner, 22, - who is charged with the distribution of LSD - Bernard Bukowski, 24, Charles Cleveau Pointdexter (aka Chase Poindexter), 23, Jackson Norria, 22, and Christopher Reyes, 26. 

Out of the total 21 accused, around 11 of those charged are believed to be current or former students at Appalachian State, Duke or UNC, Martin’s office said. The other 10 offenders are either not students or investigators are not sure when and where they attended college. The suspects range in age from 21 and 35. Martin said sales were taking place inside fraternity houses, with dealers having their set up inside their rooms, “poisoning fellow members of their fraternity”.

Kevin M Guskiewicz, the chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, said, “The university is committed to working with law enforcement to fully understand the involvement of any university individuals or organizations so that disciplinary action can be taken. Although none of the individuals named today are currently enrolled students, we will remain vigilant and continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and address any illegal drug use on our campus.”

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