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21 arrested as part of 'large drug network' involving Duke, UNC and Appalachian State University

Federal authorities have arrested 21 people following a "large drug network" bust in and around the University of North Carolina, Duke University and Appalachian State University, officials in Chapel Hill, N.C., said.

Suspects in the case were found responsible for transporting hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, LSD, molly, mushrooms, steroids, human growth hormone, Xanax, and other narcotics, according to a press release via the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

The suspects also moved thousands of pounds of marijuana, U.S. Attorney Matthew Martin, a UNC alumnus, told a local ABC affiliate WTVD.

"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," Martin added.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) launched their investigation into the drugs circulating in the Chapel Hill area in November 2018.

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The investigation led the agencies to conclude the drugs were circulating at or nearby UNC fraternity organizations.

According to court filings, the documents cite illegal drug activity reported at UNC chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma, and Beta Theta Pi between 2017 and 2020.

"Dealers set up inside these houses, poisoning fellow members of their fraternity, fueling a culture. And that's why I say today is about saving lives. Because this reckless culture has endangered lives," Martin said.

A primary supplier, Francisco Javier Ochoa Jr., 27, pleaded guilty and on Nov. 24 was sentenced to 73 months in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 forfeiture judgment.

Law enforcement seized nearly 150 pounds of marijuana, "442 grams of cocaine, 189 Xanax pills, steroids, human growth hormone, other narcotics, and approximately $27,775.00 in U.S. currency," the release said.

The investigation found Ochoa shipped cocaine and other narcotics from California via the U.S. Postal Service and transported marijuana by motor vehicle.

"College communities should be a safe haven for young adults to get a higher education. Not a place where illegal drugs are easily accessible," said DEA agent Robert J. Murphy in the press release. "The arrest of these drug traffickers makes these college campuses and their respective communities safer."