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Current or former students at Duke, UNC and App State charged in drug investigation

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Twenty-one people have been charged with federal crimes in an investigation of a drug distribution ring, many of whom are current or former students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke and Appalachian State University.

Many of the 21 charged are current or former students at the schools, said Matt Martin, U.S. attorney for the middle district of North Carolina, at a Thursday press conference. These include “a majority” of students from UNC-CH and a few from Duke and Appalachian State, he said.

“This was a large drug network and supply chain fueling a drug culture at fraternities and within these universities and around these universities and towns,” Martin said.

Martin said that the ring was responsible for the trafficking of “thousands of pounds of marijuana over the course of several years, hundreds of kilos of cocaine, LSD, molly or MDMA, mushrooms, steroids, human growth hormones, Xanax, other narcotics.”

While he declined to give an exact number regarding drug proceeds, Martin said the group made in excess of $1.5 million.

“We take these allegations very seriously and Duke will cooperate fully with law enforcement,” wrote Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, in a message to The Chronicle. “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 ring was particularly active in fraternities, with “sales going on inside these [fraternity] houses, dealers set up inside these houses…fueling a culture,” Martin said. He alleged that the fraternities involved include the UNC chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma and Beta Theta Pi and the Appalachian State chapter of Delta Chi.

Martin did not name any Duke fraternities as being involved. 

"We are disappointed to learn of the allegations against some members of our fraternity community," UNC's Interfraternity Council said in a statement provided by Hunter Gill, vice president of public relations. "These actions are by no means representative of the high standard to which IFC holds its member chapters. We support the ongoing investigation and encourage member fraternities to comply with authorities." 

UNC's Kappa Sigma chapter leadership wrote in a statement that the chapter became aware of the drug-related incidents after two undergraduate seniors in the fraternity were arrested in October, and national leadership became involved shortly after. 

"The actions of these two individuals is not representative of the organization as a whole and are a violation of the code of conduct and chapter bylaws," the chapter leadership wrote. "The members were immediately suspended officially on November 3rd pending expulsion. As an organization and as leadership we are doing everything in our power to assist with the investigation and are willing to fully cooperate with authorities." 

The other fraternities did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. 

UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote in a statement that none of the people charged are currently enrolled as students at UNC. 

“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 wrote, adding that UNC will work with law enforcement to address any illegal drug use on campus. 

All of the 21 cases will play out in federal court in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, Martin said. 

This is a developing story and may be updated.

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