Students from UNC Chapel Hill and Duke are among 21 people who have been arrested for allegedly running a massive drug ring which trafficked ‘thousands of pounds’ of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs with payments made via Venmo.
Prosecutors said the alleged drug dealing took place between 2017 and 2020, with more than $1.5million of product being shipped from California through USPS and then distributed in North Carolina, where Duke and UNC’s campuses are located about 10 miles apart.
The suspects range in age from 21 and 35. A full list of the fraternities allegedly involved have not yet been released but they include UNC chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma and Beta Theta Pi.
‘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,’ prosecutors said at a press conference Thursday.
‘These are hardened drug dealers’.
Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood, whose office worked with the DEA on the investigation, said it ‘unfolded unlike any other case I have seen’.
He said the suspects all had ‘brazen’ attitudes and that the use of drugs in some of the fraternities was ‘pervasive’.
Chase Poindexter, 23, is one of the 21 people charged over the alleged drug ring. He is accused of supplying drugs to frat brothers at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house. at UNC. He is shown with his parents graduating this year. Amber Janna Johnson allegedly sold drugs at Duke University. She’s been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine
Many of the suspects have previous arrests including Brianha Haskell, 24 (left) and Zachre Abercrombie, 27 (right) was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Brianha has been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
Kyle Parrish Beckner, 22, allegedly sold 1,000 dosage units of LSD for $3,000 in the parking lot of a Chapel Hill restaurant. Jason Nitsos (right) has been charged with selling cocaine to members of the Eta Chapter of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity at UNC-Chapel Hill
The DEA probe was launched in 2018 after people in a different investigation informed the police 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’.
Authorities identified two UNC students, one Duke student and two Appalachian State students among the defendants, but declined to say exactly how many of those charged are currently or formerly enrolled at any of those three schools.
Francisco Ochia, 27
Andrew Gaddy, 24 *
Travis Michael Evans, 27 *
Dane Lamber Simon, 23 *
Brianha Nicole Haskell, 24 *
Mariela Zavala Mendoza (aka Maria Ochoa), 25
Zachre Abercrombie, 27
Amber Johnson, 24
John Holloway, 23
Devin McDonald, 23
Jason Nitsos, 24 *
Devon Pickering, 35 *
Edison Robles, 26
Jason Xu, 23 *
Chandler Anderson, 27
David Bayha, 21
Kyle Beckner, 22
Bernard Bukowski, 24
Charles Cleveau Pointdexter aka Chase Poindexter, 23
Jackson Norria, 22
Christopher Reyes, 26
* defendants who have pleaded guilty
In July this year, 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 in July, October and December 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 distribution of LSD – Bernard Bukowski, 24, Charles Cleveau Pointdexter (aka Chase Poindexter), 23, Jackson Norria, 22, and Christopher Reyes, 26.
According to the US Attorneys Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, they shipped the drugs from the West Coast through the postal service.
Francisco Ochia, 27, is the alleged supplier from California.
He is accused of supplying 200 pounds of marijuana and two kilograms of cocaine every week to a cooperating defendant, identified as ‘CD2’ in court documents, in Orange County, North Carolina, near the two prestigious colleges.
He was arrested in November 2019 and took a plea deal which involved 73 months imprisonment, five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $250,000 forfeiture judgment.
Chase Poindexter allegedly bought cocaine and other drugs from the dealer and sold it to his fraternity brothers at UNC’s Phi Gamma Delta house.
‘In an interview, Poindexter admitted to purchasing cocaine, marijuana, and “molly” (MDMA) from CD2, and stated that all 22 members of his fraternity pledge class “went in” to purchase an ounce of cocaine for spring break in his sophomore year,’ prosecutors said.
David Bayha allegedly supplied cocaine, marijuana and Xanax to frat brothers at UNC’s Kappa Sigma chapter.
Amber Janna Johnson allegedly dealt drugs to friends and other students at Duke University.
Jason Blake Nitsos allegedly distributed the drugs to the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity at UNC. He allegedly used Venmo to pay the dealers $15,000 for the drugs between October 2017 and March 2019.
Two of the defendants were identified as students at Appalachian State, located over 160 miles from Duke and UNC in Boone County, North Carolina.
Over the summer a cooperating defendant alerted police about alleged drug dealing by 22-year-old Kyle Beckner, a member of ASU’s Delta Chi fraternity accused of selling controlled substances to peers.
Authorities set up a sting where the cooperating defendant purchased 1,000 units of LSD from Beckner for $3,000 in the parking lot of a restaurant in Chapel Hill, prosecutors wrote in an indictment.
The second ASU student, 23-year-old Devin McDonald, was also identified by a cooperating source as a distributor of cocaine on campus.
Investigators made a controlled purchase of one ounce of cocaine from McDonald in October, an indictment said.
The two colleges are ten miles apart in North Carolina. The drugs were shipped first from California to the East Coast where the middle men dealers – who are cooperating with the authorities – then sold them to the fraternities, according to prosecutors
Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said at a press conference on Thursday that the case ‘unfolded unlike any other case I have seen’
US Attorney Martin Miller on Thursday announcing the charges at a press conference
In a statement, US Attorney Miller said: ‘No one is above the law, including college students and fraternity members at elite universities.
‘This serious drug trafficking is destructive and reckless, and many lives have been ruined.
‘This investigation reveals that the fraternity culture at these universities is dangerous.
‘University administrators and national chapters cannot turn a blind eye to the impact on these students and the environment on their respective college campuses.
‘The drug culture feeds many other problems on campus and in our society.
‘University administrators must take a stand and put a stop to it.’
Michael Schoenfeld, Vice President for Public Affairs & Government Relations and Chief Communications Officer for Duke University, told DailyMail.com: ‘We take these allegations very seriously and Duke will cooperate fully with law enforcement.
‘The use and distribution of narcotics is against the law, it is against our code of conduct, and it endangers the health and safety of our students and community.
‘Duke will respond accordingly through our disciplinary process.’
UNC Chapel Hill said: ‘We are extremely disappointed to learn of these alleged actions on our campus. 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.
‘Our community can be certain that the University will enforce the student conduct code to the fullest extent possible.’
According to social media, Chase Poindexter – one of the alleged UNC dealers – now works at a second hand car dealership.
Many of the suspects graduated college earlier this year, before they were arrested.
Some of the suspects have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
They are Gaddy, Evans, Simon, Haskell, Pickering, Nitsos and Xu.