Thirteen plead guilty to 2020 West Campus drug ring charges; four set to jury trial next year


Anthony Mireles


Ali Juell, Senior News Reporter

Thirteen of the 17 people arrested for their involvement in a 2020 drug trafficking scandal in West Campus, including the operation’s leader Varun Prasad, have plead guilty this year, KXAN reported. The defendants are set for sentencing Jan. 13 of next year. 

The Department of Justice uncovered the over $1 million distribution of drugs in West Campus nearly two years ago. The DOJ uncovered LSD, methamphetamine and fentanyl through Operation Spider Web, a yearlong federal investigation. All of the defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. 

The group, which at the time included former and current University students, additionally manufactured and sold counterfeit Adderall and Xanax laced with other substances according to previous Daily Texan reporting. U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer said in the DOJ’s 2020 press release that two of the operation’s targets died from overdoses during the investigation.

“These are not pills being carefully manufactured and tested by trusted, regulated pharmaceutical companies,” said Sofer in the press release. “When unsuspecting college kids and other drug seekers put these pills in their mouths, they are playing Russian roulette. They are gambling that profit-seeking drug dealers did not place lethal doses of unknown chemicals or fentanyl in these pills.” 

Those who pleaded guilty include: Charles Zenker, Varun Prasad, Drew Zarate, Christopher Edwards, Jacob Schelling, Madison Scott, Adrian Andreescu, Nikit Shingari, Nolan Fogleman, Samuel Parry, Brandon Carpenter, Robert Byabato and Ashley Larue.

The four defendants who pleaded not guilty were Alexander Franshaw, Dominic Franshaw, Elliot Franshaw and Benny Daneshjou. Jury selection for their trials begin on Jan. 9 of next year.

Daneshjou, Zarate, Larue and Prasade were additionally charged with money laundering. The Franshaws and Byabato were not included in the Texan’s original reporting.