BOONE — Two Appalachian State students are among 21 charged in relation to a drug distribution ring on the campuses of Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Duke University, announced the Department of Justice at a Thursday, Dec. 17 press conference.
“This is a large drug network and supply chain fueling a drug culture at fraternities and within these universities and around these universities and towns,” said Matt Martin, U.S. attorney for the middle district of North Carolina. “These are 21 hardened drug dealers.”
Martin said the investigation is ongoing. App State spokesperson Megan Hayes said 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.”
The status report is released twice a year and gives an update on the status of the fraternities and sororities at App State.
Delta Chi on App State’s campus was named as one of the fraternities “impacted,” according to Martin.
According to the App State bi-annual report, Delta Chi is on university probation and social restriction through Aug. 21 due to an unregistered party and violation of Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order limiting gatherings due to COVID-19.
A message sent to the fraternity’s Facebook page has not been answered as of mid-day Thursday.
Kyle Parrish Beckner, age 22, of Boone, is charged with distribution of LSD and use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony, according to a press release from the DOJ.
In August, Beckner — who is part of Delta Chi according to the DOJ — allegedly sold 1,000 dosage units of LSD to a cooperating defendant for $3,000 in the parking lot of a Chapel Hill restaurant, according to the release.
Chad Axford of Levinson & Axford Law, P.A. is representing Beckner. Axford said his office could not provide any comment for an ongoing criminal case.
In October 2019, investigators made a controlled purchase of one ounce of cocaine from another App State student, Devin James McDonald, age 23, after he was identified by a cooperating source as someone who distributed cocaine to other App State students, according to the release.
A Devin J. McDonald is listed in the App State student directory as a senior communication advertising major. Mark Everette Edward of Edwards and Trenkle PLLC is representing McDonald, and stated on Dec. 22 that his office has no comments on the matter at this time.
“There were sales going on inside these houses,” Martin said. “Dealers set up inside these houses poisoning fellow members of their fraternity.”
Of the 21 arrested, the majority are related to Chapel Hill.
Martin said the group moved thousands of pounds of marijuana ,cocaine, LSD, Molly, mushrooms, steroids, human growth hormones, Xanax and other narcotics including cocaine, during the course of several years.
Martin said the drugs were moved through “very sophisticated measures” including using encrypted apps and online payment apps such as Venmo and PayPal. Martin said the department was not prepared to talk publicly about the total proceeds, but said it exceeded $1.5 million.
According to the DOJ, the Orange County Sheriff’s office received information about the sale of illegal drugs on the campus of Chapel Hill several years ago. In November 2018, agents and officers assigned to the DEA’s Raleigh District Office initiated an investigation into the distribution of cocaine hydrochloride and other illegal drugs in the Chapel Hill area.
“It became clear early in the investigation that illegal drug distribution occurred at or near some UNC fraternal organization properties. Court filings to date specifically allege illegal drug activity involving the UNC chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma, and Beta Theta Pi occurring between 2017 and the spring of 2020,” the DOJ press release stated.
Martin, an alumni of Chapel Hill, said administrators can’t turn a “blind eye any longer.”
“I call on university administrators, I call on the national chapters of these fraternities: do something. Take a stand. Save lives,” Martin said.
The case is being investigated by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the DEA. Law enforcement partners in Orange County and on UNC’s campus provided assistance during the investigation.
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, the DOJ stated. Anyone with additional information is asked to call the DEA Raleigh District Office at (919) 790-3004.