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Crime & Justice

21 Arrested In Large-Scale Fraternity-Related Drug Ring

According to officials, many of the individuals charged in a large scale drug distribution ring were connected with the UNC chapters of three Greek organizations, including Beta Theta Pi, pictured here.
According to officials, many of the individuals charged in a large scale drug distribution ring were connected with the UNC chapters of three Greek organizations, including Beta Theta Pi, pictured here.

Federal and state law enforcement have arrested 21 people associated with a large-scale drug ring involving the North Carolina campuses at UNC-Chapel Hill, Appalachian State University and Duke University.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Martin of North Carolina's Middle District announced the charges Thursday. He said an investigation continues into an operation that involved what he called "hardened drug dealers.”

Martin said the network of dealers, most of whom are current or former students, distributed "thousands of pounds of marijuana over the course of several years, hundreds of kilos of cocaine, LSD, molly or MDMA.” According to Martin, the dealers also distributed mushrooms, steroids, Xanax and other drugs.

The drug sales occurred at three fraternity houses on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus and one at Appalachian State University, said Martin. In apress release, Martin said that “estimates of the total drug proceeds are not presently available” but that they exceed $1.5 million.

The investigation was conducted via “undercover purchases, financial investigation, surveillance, and analysis of electronic devices,” Martin said. Ultimately, investigators found that involved parties used the U.S. Postal Service to ship cocaine from California, and moved marijuana by motor vehicle, officials said.

Cash proceeds were then sent via USPS, with other proceeds sent through mobile applications, money order and Western Union, Martin said.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said he was shocked at the depth of the group's distribution.

"It unfolded unlike any other case I've seen in my 40 years in law enforcement,” he said. “Casual use of just high volumes of drugs."

U.S. Attorney Martin called on the administrations of each university to confront a culture of drug use at college campuses.

In a statement, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said the university will “enforce the student conduct code to the fullest extent possible” and that they will continue to partner with law enforcement “to identify and address any illegal drug use on our campus.”

Appalachian State University and Duke University issued statements saying they will fully cooperate with law enforcement and that the schools will continue to carry out student conduct disciplinary processes. 
Copyright 2020 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit WUNC.org.