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BOONE — Two former Appalachian State University students pleaded guilty this past week for their role in a $1.5 million drug distribution ring on three University of North Carolina University system campuses, according to federal court records.

Kyle Parrish Beckner, 22, and Devin James McDonald, 23, were among 21 people arrested who were accused of, in part, moving thousands of pounds of marijuana, cocaine, LSD, Molly, mushrooms, steroids, human growth hormones, Xanax and other narcotics during the course of several years.

Beckner pleaded guilty on Feb. 16 to one count of distributing LSD, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years and a fine not to exceed $1 million, according to the court records. The lawyer listed for Beckner, Chad Axford, has not returned a request for comment as of Feb. 20.

McDonald pleaded guilty on Feb. 15 to one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a decibel amount of cocaine hydrochloride, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years and a fine not to exceed $5 million.

Cheryl Andrews is listed as one of the attorney’s representing McDonald.

“My client, Devin McDonald, is a fine young man from a hardworking family,” Andrews said. “His friends and family support him. He deeply regrets the situation he found himself in, and looks forward to resolving it. He accepts responsibility for his actions and hopes that other young people can learn from his mistakes.”

The Watauga Democrat previously reported that Beckner — who is part of the fraternity Delta Chi, according to the Department of Justice — allegedly sold 1,000 dosage units of LSD to a cooperating defendant for $3,000 in the parking lot of a Chapel Hill restaurant in August, according to the DOJ.

The Watauga Democrat also previously reported that in October 2019 investigators made a controlled purchase of one ounce of cocaine from McDonald, another App State student, after he was identified by a cooperating source as someone who distributed cocaine to other App State students, according to the DOJ.

Both McDonald and Beckner were listed in the App State student directory at the time of their arrest.

“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, at a Dec. 17 press conference announcing the arrests. “These are 21 hardened drug dealers.”

When the arrests were announced on Dec. 17, Martin said the drugs were moved through “very sophisticated measures” including the use of 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.

At the time of the arrests, Appalachian State spokesperson Megan Hayes said the university was cooperating fully with investigators.

“We have no on-campus fraternity houses, and we report bi-annually on the status of recognized fraternities and sororities,” Hayes said at the time. “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.”

Delta Chi, the fraternity Beckner was a member of according to the DOJ, 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, according to the App State bi-annual fraternity and sorority status report.

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(1) comment

Income inequality is rampant. US pharmaceudical companies are profiting off a broken system. Sure, let's focus our resources on the entrapment of young people for moving what, mushrooms and marijuana? And slap a huge criminal penalty on it. Guess what? That won't stop people from self medication. It's time to decriminalize all nonviolent drug offenses. Tax the transactions. After all, its about the money; the authorities are following an outdated archaic system designed to let big pharma get richer.

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