Sheriff: Hazing, trafficking involved in $1.5M+ drug ring at UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, App. State


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly two dozen people face federal charges in connection to a drug trafficking bust at three colleges in North Carolina.

The multiple-year operation focused on Appalachian State University, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill.

It involved more than $1.5 million worth of drugs, ranging from marijuana to cocaine to pills.

Officials said the majority of people involved were at UNC and a part of fraternities.

“I was super shocked at like the size of it and how much money it actually was,” said UNC freshman Amanda Abbate. “That’s insane. So much money. So many drugs.”

The investigation dates back to 2017. It started with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office learning of possible drug trafficking in the area. They said they then identified three fraternities buying and selling.

“It unfolded unlike any case I’ve seen in my 40 years of law enforcement,” said Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood. “Brazen attitudes, casual use of just high volumes of drugs, then the network started to unfold about the money.”

Officials said over the years, the drug ring funneled more than a thousand pounds of marijuana, several hundred kilograms of cocaine, and more.

The sheriff said fraternity members would also be hazed with narcotics.

“That’s what motivated us to move forward quickly with this case because it was a matter of people being placed in jeopardy,” said Blackwood.

Twenty-one people now face federal charges. Many of them are either current or former students at the universities.

Authorities said they also arrested a supplier in California, who would ship or drive drugs over.

“We were all quite shocked at how brazen these young men were and women were in moving these narcotics,” said Blackwood.

The sheriff said he wants to protect the integrity of these universities, while also sending a message.

“The goal is for the college campuses to be impacted in a positive way,” said Blackwood.

More arrests are expected as the investigation continues.

You can read the Department of Justice’s full release on the investigation by clicking here.

UNC released the following statement:

“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.”

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz.

Duke released the following statement:

“We take these allegations very seriously and Duke will cooperate fully with law enforcement. 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.”

Michael Schoenfeld, Vice President for Public Affairs & Government Relations and Chief Communications Officer for Duke University.

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