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5 Columbia University students arrested in suspected drug ring

From Jordana Ossad, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police broke up a suspected drug ring after a five-month investigation
  • Five students were charged with the criminal sale of a controlled substance
  • Undercover officers made some $11,000 in illegal drug purchases during the investigation

Watch local report from CNN affiliate WABC.

New York (CNN) -- Police broke up a suspected drug ring after a months-long investigation, called Operation Ivy League, that resulted in the arrest of five Columbia University students and three off-campus suppliers, officials said Wednesday.

The students, who were arrested Tuesday, were identified as Harrison David, Chris Coles, Adam Klein, Jose Stephan Perez and Michael Wymbs, according to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office in New York.

They were charged with the criminal sale of a controlled substance after undercover officers made some $11,000 in illegal drug purchases during the five-month undercover investigation, the prosecutor's office said in a written statement.

David, who was salutatorian of his high school class, was the initial target of a police investigation that began in July after authorities received anonymous tips regarding voluminous drug sales on university grounds, prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said Wednesday.

It was David's alleged dealings that helped officers locate additional sellers and suppliers, she said.

Ivy League drug ring?
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"They weren't just selling small amounts," Brennan added. "When the undercover officer asked for large amounts of cocaine and marijuana, they seemed fully capable of delivering."

Authorities say the students sold a cocktail of illegal substances, including Adderall, marijuana, Ecstasy, cocaine and LSD-laced Altoid mints.

"This drug bust is just the tip of the iceberg," said graduate student Kirk Klocke. "In a community where there are so many students who have a disposable income, it is a given that there will be drug activity."

Three off-campus drug suppliers also were arrested on related charges Sunday.

They were identified as Roberto Lagares, Miron Sarzynski and his girlfriend, Megan Asper, authorities said.

Police charged Sarzynski, 23, with attempting to kidnap after he allegedly hired an undercover officer to abduct a rival drug dealer in an effort to collect money he was owed, according to the statement.

Sarzynski told the undercover officer to torture the rival dealer by forcibly administering heavy doses of LSD, and to kill the person if he could not obtain the money, it said.

"The fact that a supplier to the Columbia students was willing to kill his rivals should demolish any argument that drugs on campus is a victimless crime," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in the statement. "This is no way to work your way through college."

Authorities say the majority of the sales took place in common areas and bedrooms of three university fraternities, identified as Alpha Epsilon Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha and Psi Upsilon.

"The students arrested supplied dangerous substances to their friends and other students to turn a quick profit, but subjected themselves to risks, of which they were either ignorant or in denial," Brennan told CNN affiliate WABC.

Columbia University's dean of student affairs, Kevin Shollenberger, said the Ivy League school is "taking this matter very seriously."

"The alleged behavior of the students involved in this incident goes against not only state and federal law, but also university policy and the principles we have set -- and strive together to maintain -- for our community," Shollenberger said in a written statement.

The suspects all pleaded not guilty during a court arraignment Tuesday. They are to appear in court on January 18.

"We are contesting the charges," said defense attorney Herschel Katz, who is representing Klein. He declined additional comment, citing the ongoing nature of court proceedings.

The remaining suspects and their legal representatives were not immediately available for comment.

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