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On-Grounds drug probe nets 13 arrests; three more suspects sought

By Dan Heuchert

The Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement Task Force on Nov. 6 announced the arrests of 13 people, including nine current or former University students, as the result of an ongoing investigation into drug trafficking around Grounds. The probe was sparked by complaints from University students, said University Police Chief Michael Sheffield.

Six of the suspects face federal charges, while the rest will be charged in local and state courts. All 13 have been released on bond. Three more suspects are still being sought, said Lt. Bryant Bibb, who heads the JADE Task Force.

The yearlong probe focused on distribution of the so-called "club drug" ecstasy. JADE agents -- drawn from the ranks of University, Charlottesville, Albemarle and state police and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration -- seized 2,466 ecstasy tablets valued at nearly $37,000, in addition to smaller quantities of marijuana, cocaine and LSD. The total market value of the seizures was estimated at $46,522.

Officials said undercover purchases were made at a variety of locations, and were not limited to any particular identifiable groups. Although some of the suspects worked together, the activity was not part of a coordinated ring, Bibb said.

According to printed material distributed at a press conference, ecstasy, a psychoactive substance usually manufactured illicitly in Europe, can lead to the breakdown of inhibitions, "a sense of peace with oneself and the world, an enhanced sense of pleasure, greater self-confidence and an increased sense of energy." However, it can also increase body temperatures to as high as 109 degrees, leading to a risk of heat stroke. Deaths due to ecstasy use have been reported. Other short-term effects may include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and amnesia. Long-term ecstasy users risk permanent brain damage in areas critical to thought and memory, as well as severe liver damage and Parkinson's disease-like impairments to motor skills.


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