- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 7, 2008

An extensive undercover federal drug investigation ended yesterday with the arrest of 96 persons, including 75 students, on the San Diego State University campus on charges they sold or purchased cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy.

Ralph W. Partridge, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s San Diego field division, said the probe began in May 2007 when a SDSU student was found dead of a drug overdose in her bedroom.

SDSU police began an investigation known as Operation Sudden Fall when undercover officers determined students and non-students were heavily involved in selling drugs for profit on and off campus. DEA agents infiltrated several student drug distribution cells and more than 130 drug purchases and seizures were made during the five-month operation.

“This investigation spotlights two tragedies. The tragic drug overdose deaths of two college students and secondly, the shattered futures of those students who choose to continue to engage in the illicit sale and usage of a myriad of controlled substances,” Mr. Partridge said. “A drug-free learning environment for our children should be the norm, not the exception.”

As a result of the investigation, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne in Washington said 75 SDSU students and 21 non-students have been arrested for various offenses ranging from possession of marijuana and cocaine to sales of cocaine.

Mr. Payne said one student who was arrested and accused of being a drug dealer was a month from getting his master’s degree in homeland security and also worked as a student Community Service Officer on campus, reporting to campus police.

Another student who was arrested in connection with possession of 500 grams of cocaine and two guns was a criminal justice major, he said.

During the undercover operation, a second fatal drug overdose occurred Feb. 26 when a 22-year-old Mesa College student died from an accidental cocaine overdose in a SDSU fraternity house.

“This operation shows how accessible and pervasive illegal drugs continue to be on our college campuses, and how common it is for students to be selling to other students,” said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis. “It’s unfortunate that it took the accidental cocaine overdose of a student to refocus attention on the problem.”

Mr. Payne said DEA agents and SDSU police infiltrated seven campus fraternities and found that in some cases, most members were aware of the organized drug dealing occurring out of the fraternity houses. He said undercover agents purchased cocaine from fraternity members and confirmed that a hierarchy existed for selling drugs for money.

He said that in one instance, a member of the Theta Chi fraternity sent out a mass text message to his “faithful customers” that he and his “associates” would be traveling to Las Vegas for the weekend and would not be able to complete cocaine sales during that time. He noted they were having a “sale” on cocaine and listed the reduced prices.

Evidence seized includes 4 pounds of cocaine, 50 pounds of marijuana, 48 hydroponic marijuana plants, 350 Ecstasy pills, psilocybin (mushrooms), 30 vials of hash oil, methamphetamine, various illicit prescription drugs, one shotgun, three semiautomatic pistols, three sets of brass knuckles and $60,000 in cash.

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