By Leslie Albrecht
MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — As five Columbia University students waited to be bailed out of jail Wednesday on charges they ran a frat house drug ring, an official from one fraternity headed to campus to determine whether to shut down a local chapter.
Chris Coles, Harrison David, Adam Klein, Jose Stephan Perez, all 20, and Michael Wymbs, 22, were busted Tuesday after a five-month investigation during which authorities said the students sold $11,000 worth of cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, marijuana and other drugs to undercover cops. All five pleaded not guilty.
Klein, Perez and David are members of fraternities and lived in frat houses on West 114th Street. Authorities say they also used those houses as a base for their drug dealing.
A chapter services representative with Psi Upsilon, the frat that Klein belongs to, was on his way to campus Wednesday morning to interview Klein's 30 frat brothers, said Psi Upsilon executive director Mark Williams.
The fraternity representative will also meet with university officials.
Though the frat's national leadership could decide to close Psi Upsilon, the frat's final fate rests with the university, Williams said, because Columbia owns the Psi Upsilon house.
"Columbia University owns the property, so they get the last say in who gets to occupy it," Williams said.
A university spokesman declined to comment on whether the university will discipline the frats.
Williams said it's too early to say what, if any, disciplinary action the fraternity chapter could face from its national headquarters.
Fraternity officials will investigate whether other frat members knew about the alleged drug dealing inside the frat house and, if so, whether they remained silent or alerted authorities. Police have said the investigation was spurred in part by calls to the CrimeStoppers hotline.
Some students interviewed on campus Tuesday said the frat houses involved in the arrests were known as places to go to buy pot. But others said the frats had a reputation for partying with alcohol, not drugs.
Klein, a neuroscience major, faces charges of selling LSD. Police say Klein sprinkled the drug on Altoids breath mints and SweeTARTS candy. He was caught with more than $4,000 cash, in addition to marijuana, DMT, and MDMA, among other drugs, prosecutors said.
"If we find out there were too many people who knew about it and failed to take action, we would consider eliminating that membership and starting over again," Williams said.
Psi Upsilon is a relatively small fraternity, with just 25 chapters around the country, Williams said.
Last year it closed four of those chapters. Houses at Kenyon College and Union College were shuttered after repeated attempts to improve behavior at the chapters failed. The frat closed its doors at Amherst College and the University of Rochester after inappropriate hazing involving alcohol, Williams said.
Representatives from Pi Kappa Alpha, where Perez is a member, and Alpha Epsilon Pi, where Harrison David is a member, couldn't be reached immediately for comment Wednesday afternoon.
An editorial in Wednesday's Columbia Spectator, the student newspaper, noted that the bust comes on the heels of Barnard College's student government association's decision to recognize sororities and a recent publicity campaign that celebrated positive aspects of Greek life.
"We must remember that fraternities are composed of many more individuals than the five who were arrested," reads the editorial. "There will surely be discussion, but we should strive to have conversations that do not reinforce pre-existing divisions on campus."
Of the five students arrested Tuesday, four remained in custody early Wednesday evening, according to the Department of Corrections website.
Michael Wymbs left jail mid-afternoon Wednesday after posting $35,000 jail, a Department of Corrections spokesman said. He's charged with selling MDMA and LSD to undercover officers on five separate occasions.
Wymbs' defense attorney Michael Bachner said he couldn't comment on his client's spirits, but said Wymbs' family is "very supportive" of their son. "It's a difficult time for everybody," Bachner said.
Adam Klein's attorney Hershel Katz said his client posted $35,000 in bail Wednesday. His father and teary-eyed mother greeted him when he was released late Wednesday afternoon. He did not speak to the press.
"Like any parents, they want their son home and they can't believe what's going on," Katz said.
Katz said he hadn't spoken yet to his client, a native of Charleston, S.C. who competed on Columbia's fencing team.
He said he thought Klein was probably "traumatized" by his arrest.
"I would imagine someone who's never been through this before, it would freak you out," Katz said. "I would assume he's traumatized, unless he's made of stone."