Credit: Photo by Jon Gardiner

It wasn’t your average college startup: the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Department of Justice revealed Thursday that three UNC-Chapel Hill fraternities—Phi Gamma Delta, Beta Theta Pi, and Kappa Sigma—were the backdrops for drug sales at the university for years.

By Friday afternoon, the university announced that it would be temporarily suspending the three organizations while the investigation went on. Phi Gamma Delta has also been temporarily suspended by their national organization, according to News & Observer.

“We are taking swift action today because the serious nature of the alleged criminal behaviors is contradictory to our code of conduct and endangers the health of our student body and community,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a statement. “We remain vigilant and are continuing to work with law enforcement to understand the extent of this activity on our campus and will take all appropriate measures to address it.” 

Yesterday’s investigation update revealed that over $1.5 million worth of cocaine, marijuana, MDMA, Xanax, and other narcotics were sold around Chapel Hill for years. The court documents include Venmo transactions, GroupMe messages, texts backed up to iCloud, and photos. 

Four of the 21 people charged in the case had been members of UNC-Chapel Hill fraternities, although Guskiewicz says no one arrested was a current student at the university. Seven defendants are pleading guilty and awaiting sentencing, while Francisco Javier Ochoa, the first person charged in the case, has been sentenced to six years and one month in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. 

Every week for two years, Ochoa apparently supplied 200 pounds of reefer and two kilograms of cocaine to a defendant in Orange County. This was then sold to the fraternity brothers, who sold it to other fraternity brothers and students. Over a thousand pounds of marijuana, a few hundred kilograms of cocaine, and other narcotics were trafficked through the operation over several years, law enforcement said.

One defendant, the member of Phi Gamma Delta, said that he and his 22 pledge brothers (those who joined the same semester he did) bought an ounce of cocaine for spring break his sophomore year, according to the indictment. Just to give you some perspective: that’s about 28 grams, and each gram creates about 10-20 lines, according to Reddit.

Suspension, according to the Interfraternity Council’s constitution, means that the three fraternities are in “poor standing,” It’s unclear what that means in terms of punishment; in 2013, Chi Phi was suspended at Carolina after a student pledging the organization died with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit. Members were allowed to continue living at the house, but any fraternity-related activities (mixers, parties, meetings, etc.) were stalled until the investigation was finalized. In short: a slap on the wrist.

After the current investigations are over, the university could revoke its recognition of the chapter, as they did with Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 2019 for hazing. They could also put the chapters on probation, usually a short-term solution for smaller incidents.

One person charged was a member of Delta Chi at Appalachian State University. The fraternity was already on probation through the university until August 2021, and it is unclear whether additional sanctions will be added. A Duke student is also wrapped up in the case


Follow Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño on Twitter or send an email to spequeno@indyweek.com

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.