CHAPEL HILL, NC (WNCN) — Nearly two dozen people, including one from Wilmington, are facing federal charges following an investigation into the sale of drugs on or near multiple college campuses in North Carolina, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.
The drug trafficking investigation was conducted by a task force with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
While working on a drug case several years ago, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office got information about the sale of illegal drugs on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus, the DOJ said.
In November 2018, investigators with the DEA’s Raleigh office started an investigation into the distribution of cocaine and hydrochloride and other illegal drugs in the Chapel Hill area, the DOJ said.
Early in the investigation, it was discovered the illegal drug distribution happened at or near some UNC-CH frat properties.
According to court filings, the illegal drug activity involved the UNC-CH chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma, and Beta Theta Pi happening between 2017 and the spring of 2020.
The illegal drug activity also involved selling to students at Duke University and Appalachian State University. One of the defendants was a member of Delta Chi fraternity at ASU, the DOJ said.
According to the DOJ, the “drug ring funneled over a thousand pounds of marijuana, several hundred kilograms of cocaine, and significant quantities of other drugs into these college campuses. Estimates of the total drug proceeds are not presently available, but they exceeded 1.5 million dollars.”
According to court documents, throughout the investigation and talking with cooperating sources and defendants, investigators found that people were shipping cocaine from California via the U.S. Postal Service and transporting marijuana by a vehicle.
An estimated $1.3 million in other proceeds were transferred through financial institutions utilizing money orders, Western union and mobile payment applications, the DOJ said.
The investigation showed on primary supplier and the first person charged as a result of the investigation was Francisco Javier Ochoa Jr., 27, of Turlock, California.
Ochoa was indicted in November 2019 on charges of conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.
From March 2017 to March 22, 2019, court documents state Ochoa supplied around 200 pounds of marijuana and two kilograms of cocaine weekly to a cooperating defendant in Orange County, North Carolina.
Law enforcement agencies seized 148.75 pounds of marijuana, 442 grams of cocaine, 189 Xanax pills, steroids, human growth hormone, other narcotics, and approximately $27,775 in U.S. currency at locations associated with the subject in Carrboro and Hillsborough.
The investigation showed payment for the drugs was made through Venmo and by sending cash through the mail, the DOJ said.
On Nov. 24, 2020, Ochoa pleaded guilty to the indictment and was sentenced to 73 months imprisonment, 5 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $250,000 forfeiture judgement.
Between July and December 2020, 20 additional people have been charged in connection with the drug sales.
The below defendants have been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute marijuana:
- Andrew Boylan Gaddy, 24, of Carrboro
- Travis Michael Evans, 27, of Hillsborough
- Dane Lambert Simon, 23, of Durham
- Brianha Nicole Haskell, 24, of Hillsborough
In other indictments returned in July, October and December of 2020, the following defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine:
- Zachre Chasen Abercrombie, 27, of Charlotte
- Amber Jana Johnson, 24, of Carrboro
- John Frederick Holloway, 23, of Carrboro
- Devin James McDonald, 23, of Kill Devil Hills
- Jason Blake Nitsos, 24, of Greensboro
- Devon Anthony Pickering, 35, of Charlotte
- Edison Torres Robles, aka Fransisco Gallego Mandez Rodriguez, 26, of Durham
- Jason Shuang Xu, 23, of Apex
Seven additional defendants were individually charged:
- Chandler David Anderson, 27, of Wilmington faces charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana.
- Davis Lindsey Bayha, 21, of Chapel Hill faces charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana; use of a communication facility to facilitate drug felony; and distribution of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a public or private college or university.
- Kyle Parrish Beckner, 22, of Boone is charged with distribution of LSD and use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony.
- Bernard Aleksander Bukowski, 24, of Raleigh faces one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
- Charles Cleveau Poindexter aka Chase Poindexter, 23, and Jackson Alexander Norris, 22, of Chapel Hill 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, 26, of Greensboro is charged with conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.
According to the DOJ, “the defendants indicted for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute marijuana face terms of imprisonment ranging from not less than 10 years and not more than life, not less than 5 years and not more than 40 years, and not more than 20 years, with fines of up to $10,000,000, $5,000,000, $1,000,000, respectively, or both, and terms of supervised release of at least 3 to 5 years, or more. The other charges carry lesser terms of imprisonment, fines, or both, and supervised release.”
In addition to Ochoa, the following defendants pleaded guilty to one or more charges against them:
- Gaddy – sentencing March 24
- Evans – sentencing Feb. 17
- Simon– sentencing March 24
- Haskell – sentencing March 30
- Pickering– sentencing Feb. 20
- Nitsos – sentencing March 19
- Xu – sentencing March 19
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is asked to call the DEA Raleigh District Office at (919) 790-3004.