NEW YORK (CBS 2/WCBS 880/1010 WINS) — Did the high cost of college tuition encourage a group of Columbia University students to deal drugs?

Walking with their heads hanging low, five students were arrested Tuesday.

And at least two of them told undercover cops they sold drugs to help pay for tuition, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

Tuition, fees, room and board at Columbia tops $55,000 a year and during the semester-long undercover “Operation Ivy League” some of the defendants justified selling drugs as a way to afford college,” police said.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports

1010 WINS Al Jones talks with students from Columbia University.

Tuesday on campus some students told Aiello they can sympathize.

“College is expensive, so I can kind of see something like that happening. I mean not everybody has a lot of money to pay for college,” one student said.

Police said that’s the story they got from several of the alleged Columbia drug dealers.

The operation was based on West 114th Street — Columbia’s “fraternity row.” Investigators said the defendants turned several frat houses into a virtual drug supermarket.

“The most surprising aspect was the openness of the drug dealing. It appeared to have been done very cavalierly. In addition, there was a wide range of drugs,” NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said.

Brennan said it included cocaine, marijuana, Ecstasy, prescription Adderall and LSD, sold in liquid form. Brennan told 1010 WINS the investigation started as a result of “some community complaints” and said “there were leads we developed from other investigations.”

The students also worked independent of each other, Brennan said.  “Each one seemed to specialize in a particular controlled substance or narcotic,” she said.

“And these individuals were actually making quite a bit of money at it,” Brennan said.

Undercover cops bought $11,000 worth of drugs from students Chris Coles, Harrison David, Adam Klein, Jose Stephan Perez and Michael Wymbs. Authorities said most of the arrested students’ customers were other students and friends buying smaller amounts for recreational use. The liquid LSD was sold in Altoids and SweeTarts.

“They’re very good guys, and I’m sad that it happened here,” one student said.

On campus many expressed shock at the arrests. One student came to the defense of LSD peddler Klein.

“He’s very smart. He’s always really kind, and very hospitable,” Aliya Zlotkin said.

Also arrested were several alleged suppliers who lived off campus, including 23-year-old Miron Sarzynski. Investigators said cops who raided his Lower East Side apartment found bottles of LSD in a Gucci box and high-quality pot plants under “grow lights.”

That alleged supplier was also busted for trying to hire an undercover cop to torture someone who owed him money.

Police said these Columbia students were dealing with very unsavory characters and because the drugs came from Mexico they were in a small way helping to fuel the drug violence there.

Said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly: “This is no way to work your way through college.”

Comments (26)
  1. johnny b good says:

    this is another clumsy nypd ploy at discrediting another major institution that has made them look incompetent in the past. Or at least it gives them a high-profile bust so that people become even less cognizant of the real dangerous drug activity and violence in the immediately surrounding community. These brilliant infilitrators were of a mind to “kick it” with some college kids ands score thousands of dollars worth of drugs because they knew this would go down easy. commendations all around detectives.

  2. Nicholas says:

    Hey! I did not agree with the boys’ intentions to cause any harm to rival dealers, but that is not the nature of the trade: cocaine, maybe, but LSD and marijuana? Are you joking? I know very well what a lot of these people are like (I go out, I meet people), and I have to say, they are NOT bad. Let me rephrase that: it isn’t just that they aren’t bad, but they are REALLY really good! Many of them very intelligent, as you can see by this small sample of students at Columbia. But they’ve everywhere. They really are, and the thing is, most of you wouldn’t even believe how many of the people you know have probably done and still do drugs like LSD and marijuana. It’s a shame if they did anything wrong, but selling LSD and marijuana, even if it is illegal, is NOT wrong. Those who have tried it make the very well informed decision to stick to it, illegal or not, and to likewise stick to its promotion and good repute the world over. Thank you.

  3. student says:

    I am currently a student at Columbia University. I have felt the sting and witnessed the effect that this situation has had on our campus. There’s nothing worse than knowing that one of your friends has been taken into custody for a terrible crime. The only thing worse is knowing that their futures are forever changed. These kids were among the brightest at Columbia: they had good grades and were active in the community. It pains me to think that all the work they did in high school (to get into an institution like this) as well as the work they were doing at Columbia has been put to waste. They are smart kids who made a stupid mistake. I am not condemning their actions. What they did was wrong and they deserve to be punished for it. I just hope that there will be some sparkle of a future, some glint of hope at the end, when all this is over. The truth is that drugs and alcohol are not scare items around Columbia University, or any college for that matter. These kids were just the unfortunate few who got caught. Punish them? yes. Ruin their lives? no.

    1. former C>U Student says:

      It is very sad indeed that these very bright young men CHOSE to deal drugs to make a quick buck. The idea that bright, talented young people such as yourself are empathizing with these boys is, quite frankly, disturbing. Had they not been caught, do you honestly think their “side job” would have ended on graduation day? If drug dealing can fund their college education,why not grad school, law school, business school? Look, I went to Columbia and I was maxed to the teeth in loans. Like most people, I have managed to pay them off. I would not expect anything less from anyone who has the aptitude and good fortune to be accepted into such a fine institution.

  4. db says:

    @ jobsawaistin, all I suggest is that after they do their time (or anyone for that matter that commits a non-violent offense) they should be done paying. They should have a clean record after they pay their debt, or it just makes it that much harder to re-join society.

    1. Former C>U Student says:

      I’m not so sure that drug dealing is a non-violant offense. What these boys were doing was not some in nocuous business venture like selling fake designer handbags or scalping concert tickets. They were peddling substances that ultimately lead to misery and death for individual, their families and society at large!

  5. The Good Samaritan says:

    They should be thrown out of college immediately.
    It is bad enough these people beat the system on illegally paying their college tutition.

    The Good Samaritan has spoken

    1. GOOD SAMARITAN? Eh says:

      One of those people was the VALEDICTORIAN at my high school. Your saying he should not have gone to Columbia University when he was accepted? The only way to get a job these days is to have college education. His parents can’t afford to pay for school and did not have the credit to get the loans he would need to go to any school let alone Columbia university. He is a good kid and was a VERY, VERY, SMART one too. So I think you were mistaken when you wrote ” It is bad enough these people beat the system on illegally paying for their college tuition.”
      That’s not the bad part, the bad part is that there a system that demands $55,000 that you can’t pay for unless you are already $$$$$$$$$$RICH or your parents have the proper credit to help you get the proper loans.

  6. Egan says:

    Boo hoo. They are locked up with less opportunity and loans to be repaid. My dead friends didn’t have that option.

    1. thinkfaster says:

      Well, there you go. No one can ever be sad about anything unless the person they are sad about is dead. Thanks for setting us straight, Egan.

  7. Former C>U Student says:

    @db: Society isn’t making these people criminals, they were well established before the law got involved. Yes, many white collar crimes certainly go unpunished, but that doesn’t make it OK to sell drugs. I don’t have an once of empathy for these guys. They had amazing opportunities and promising futures, all of which they trashed because of their arrogance and blatant disregard for the well being of others!

  8. Former C>U Student says:

    I hope this isn’t the brain trust of CU! Ivy Leaguers or not, they are selfish and very foolish! What’s worse is, they have people sympathizing with them! I particularly like the, “He’s very smart. He’s very kind…”.oh brother! Is this the same smart, kind and hospitable guy whose dealing with people who are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people? If it came between the mighty dollar and your neck my dear, I would be very cautious around these otherwise “really nice guys”.

  9. Borsia says:

    Otto; You seem to have forgotten that any contact with pot will cause you children to all be born naked!!!!! There is even some evidence that they will be born with sex organs,,, not fully confirmed.

  10. db says:

    Now what? They get convicted for possession with intent, trafficking and conspiracy, pay their debt to society, and then can’t get a job because of the conviction. They can’t pay back their student loans or go back to school. The course of their lives in forever changed and many would argue ruined. Maybe they should have went into banking or politics where crimes are never punished. The point is, these kids have potential, and sending them to prison, forcing them to write “Convicted” on employment screens in the future, destroys that potential. Next time they will be even better at being criminals. Are we punishing criminals or creating them?

    1. jobsawaistin says:

      Soooo, what do you suggest? How much community service should they get? How about this….They should have to pick up ALL of the cigarette butts in Times Square and Central Park for 2 years……even in the snow.

      Once again, I’m curious, what do you suggest ??

    2. Borsia says:

      You are correct, we should burn them with the rest of the witches.

  11. Ron Maxwell says:

    Ummmm. Their names are in the article.

    Undercover cops bought $11,000 worth of drugs from students Chris Coles, Harrison David, Adam Klein, Jose Stephan Perez and Michael Wymbs.

  12. jobsawaistin says:

    Holla, Holla, Holla !

    Oh no! Anutha dealin’ schola’

  13. Borsia says:

    I guess they need to change the way they spell the name from Columbia to Colombia.

  14. otto says:

    WAIT! STOP THE PRESSES! You mean college kids smoking pot ?!? Next thing you’ll tell me is college kids are having sex!

    Stay off the pot. The pot is the most addictive and dangerous substance known to man. In the US alone, 500,000 people die every day from inhaling the pot. They say if you even look at the pot you will go blind and grow hair on you palms. You may even grow up to be President.

  15. LOL over this says:

    How can I get a job working at the NYPD evidence locker?

  16. The Truth says:

    I do not see the suspects names? Priviliged kids? If they were minorities you can bet their names would be plastered all over the place. BTW I thought this was a capitalist society so let them deal. Why are somkes and liquor legal? FDA calls it a drug.

  17. Richard says:

    Columbia must take full responsibility since the school drove these kids to sell drugs with their high tuitiion. Columbia’s tuition, cost of housing, and cost of books is so high when taken in the aggregate these kids may have had little opportunity to cover these costs through legitimate means of income. Shame, shame Columbia.

  18. David Flores says:

    toke and pass

  19. Fred says:

    The educational system is decaying.

  20. Rhino Von says:

    Dam – I wish I hooked up before they busted them. Listen in the words of Peter Tosh – LEGALIZE IT! Tax it – to get us out of this depression.

    Everything in Moderation!

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