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21 face federal charges in drug distribution ring at UNC, Duke & App State

Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 3:44 PM EST
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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WRAL) - Federal prosecutors and local law enforcement announced a bust Thursday of a drug trafficking ring that funneled thousands of pounds of marijuana, hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, and other drugs through on the campuses of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and Appalachian State University.

WRAL reports, Matt Martin, U.S. attorney for the middle district of North Carolina, and Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood expressed surprise and dismay at the amount of narcotics being moved on college campuses and the attitude of those involved.

The investigation “unfolded unlike any other case I have seen,” Blackwood said.

Given “the brazen attitudes” of those involved and “the casual use of high volumes of drugs,” Blackwood said it was not very hard to see what was going on.

“The distribution of hard drugs was pervasive in and around certain fraternities,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.

The investigation began at the local level, with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Court filings allege illegal drug activity within the UNC chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma, and Beta Theta Pi fraternities occurring between 2017 and the Spring of 2020.

NC fraternities drug ring
NC fraternities drug ring(WRAL)

When the scope of the problem became clear, other local and federal law enforcement agencies got involved.

Of the 21 people charged, “many are either current or former students,” Martin said. A few of them are from Duke, a few at App State, and “the majority at UNC.”

He called on university administrators to address institutional problems.

“Administrators can’t turn a blind eye any longer,” Martin said. “We can not let this culture continue.”

UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a statement that none of the charged individuals were current students.

“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,” Guskiewicz said.

WRAL reached out to one of the individuals facing multiple charges, Charles Poindexter, by phone. He had no comment.

According to documents filed in the case, Poindexter told a federal agent that half of the drugs bought and sold at UNC as being paid for using cash and the other half through the app Venmo.

He also said all 22 members of his fraternity pledge class “went in” to purchase an ounce of cocaine for Spring break during his sophomore year.

NC fraternities drug ring
NC fraternities drug ring(WRAL)

In July, five people were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute marijuana:

• ANDREW BOYLAN GADDY, age 24, of Carrboro, NC;• TRAVIS MICHAEL EVANS, age 27, of Hillsborough, NC;• DANE LAMBERT SIMON, age 23, of Durham, NC;• BRIANHA NICOLE HASKELL, age 24, of Hillsborough, NC; and• MARIELA ZAVALA MENDOZA, aka Maria Ochoa, age 25, of Turlock, CA.

Another eight were charged over the past six months with conspiracy to distribute cocaine:

• ZACHRE CHASEN ABERCROMBIE, age 27, of Charlotte, NC;• AMBER JANNA JOHNSON, age 24, of Carrboro, NC;• JOHN FREDERICK HOLLOWAY, age 23, of Carrboro, NC;• DEVIN JAMES McDONALD, age 23, of Kill Devil Hills, NC;• JASON BLAKE NITSOS, age 24, of Greensboro, NC;• DEVON ANTHONY PICKERING, age 35, of Charlotte, NC;• EDILSON TORRES ROBLES, aka Fransisco Gallego Mandez Rodriguez, age 26, of Durham, NC; and• JASON SHUANG XU, age 23, of Apex, NC.

Seven others face a variety of charges:

• CHANDLER DAVID ANDERSON, age 27, of Wilmington, NC, faces charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana.• DAVID LINDSEY BAYHA, age 21, of Chapel Hill, NC, faces charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana; use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony; and distribution of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a public or private college or university.• KYLE PARRISH BECKNER, age 22, of Boone, NC, is charged with distribution of LSD and use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony.• BERNARD ALEKSANDER BUKOWSKI, age 24, of Raleigh, NC, faces one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.• CHARLES CLEVEAU POINDEXTER aka Chase Poindexter, age 23, and JACKSON ALEXANDER NORRIS, age 22, of Chapel Hill, NC, are each charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony; and distribution of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a public or private college or university.• CHRISTOPHER ANTONIO REYES, age 26, of Greensboro, NC, is charged with conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.

The Department of Justice identified one primary supplier as Francisco Javier Ochoa Jr., 27, of Turlock, CA. He has already been sentenced to six years in prison.

In addition to Ochoa, seven others have already pleaded guilty to some of the charges against them.

Based on their charges, criminal histories, and level of cooperation with the investigation, those charged could face minimum mandatory sentences of five to 10 years, with possible sentences of up to life in prison.

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