Two men from the Outer Banks are among nearly two dozen current and former students charged for allegedly being part of a large-scale drug ring centered around multiple fraternity houses at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke, and Greek organizations at Appalachian State.
At a press conference Thursday in Hillsborough, federal prosecutors and local law enforcement announced that many of those arrested were part of the Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma and Beta Theta Pi fraternities at Carolina.
“I want to make this clear,” said Matthew G.T. Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “This was not the situation where you have single users — a 19-year-old sipping a beer or you have someone who is taking a puff of a joint on the back porch of a frat house. These are 21 hardened drug dealers.”
Martin said investigators found the drug ring moved thousands of pounds of marijuana, several hundred kilograms of cocaine, LSD, Molly, mushrooms, steroids, human growth hormones, Xanax and other narcotics.
He added that they were still calculating the dollar amounts, but the deals totaled well in excess of $1.5 million.
Devin James McDonald, 23, of Kill Devil Hills and a senior at App State, was indicted by a federal grand jury in July on a charge of felony conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, in October 2019 investigators made a controlled purchase of one ounce of cocaine from McDonald, after he was identified by a cooperating source as someone who distributed cocaine to other App State students.
Court documents show McDonald had an arraignment hearing in federal court on Thursday, but no additional information was available.
Kyle Parrish Beckner, 22, of Boone and native of Dare County, is charged with distribution of LSD and use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony.
According to the press release, last summer a cooperating defendant identified an App State student and member of the Delta Chi fraternity member as a known distributor of controlled substances.
In August 2020, Beckner allegedly sold 1,000 doses of LSD to the informant for $3,000 in the parking lot of a Chapel Hill restaurant.
Beckner was arrested on Nov. 9, subsequently released and was scheduled to appear at the federal courthouse in Greensboro last week, according to court documents.
“It unfolded unlike any other case that I’ve seen in my 40 years,” said Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said. “The brazen attitudes, casual use of high volumes of drugs. Then the network started to unfold about the money.
“Initially it was not very hard to see what was going on, such that when we contacted our partners in the U.S. attorney’s office,” Blackwood said. “We were all quite shocked at how brazen these young men were, and women were, that were moving these narcotics.”
According to a news release, Orange County Sheriff’s deputies started looking into drug sales on UNC’s campus while working on another case several years ago.
Federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency office in Raleigh also started a probe of drug sales in Chapel Hill in November 2018. That investigation led to the discovery of deals being conducted in Durham and Boone.
“There were sales going on inside these houses, dealers set up inside these houses, poisoning fellow members of their fraternity, fueling a culture,” Martin said.
Martin said the press conference held Thursday was about “saving lives because this reckless culture has endangered lives.”
App State spokesperson Megan Hayes told the Watauga Democrat the university is “cooperating fully with law enforcement in this investigation.”
“We have no on-campus fraternity houses, and we report bi-annually on the status of recognized fraternities and sororities,” Hayes said. “We are committed to providing a safe campus and will continue our work with education and prevention, as well as utilizing our student conduct and law enforcement processes, to do so.”
UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz issued the following statement about the allegations:
“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.”
Duke University Chief Communications Officer Michael Schoenfeld also issued a statement when asked about Martin’s remarks by The News & Observer.
“We take these allegations very seriously and Duke will cooperate fully with law enforcement,” Schoenfeld said in an email to The News & Observer. “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.”
The DOJ release stated that an indictment was returned on July 27 from a grand jury that charged the following defendants 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.
In other indictments returned in July, October and December, the grand jury charged each of the following defendants with conspiracy to distribute cocaine:
• ZACHRE CHASEN ABERCROMBIE, age 27, of Charlotte, NC;
• AMBER JANA 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;
• EDISON TORRES ROBLES, aka Fransisco Gallego Mandez Rodriguez, age 26, of
Durham, NC; and
• JASON SHUANG XU, age 23, of Apex, NC.
Seven additional defendants were individually charged in October and December with a variety of offenses:
CHANDLER DAVID ANDERSON, age 27, of Wilmington, NC, faces charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marihuana.
DAVIS LINDSEY BAYHA, age 21, of Chapel Hill, NC, faces charges of conspiracy to distribute marihuana; use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony; and distribution of a controlled substance within 1,000 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 investigation continues, and more charges are possible.