‘The news of these arrests was both surprising and disappointing’: WPD arrests 10 individuals in first phase of months-long investigation

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GRAPHIC BY LEONOR GRAVE / THE FLAT HAT

According to Williamsburg-James City County General District Court documents, the Williamsburg Police Department, in a joint drug investigation with the Tri-Rivers Task Force, used a confidential informant to purchase drugs at various locations around the College of William and Mary’s campus, including two residence halls. This was part of the first phase of a several-month-long investigation that resulted in 10 arrests connected to the College.

What happened in the investigation?

These 10 people — including eight students, one professor and a dining services worker employed by Arby’s and Sodexo — were arrested April 17 on multiple accounts of narcotics possession and distribution. According to WPD Major Greg Riley, this investigation began when information was received about unreported sexual assaults due to an increase in drug activity on and around the College’s campus.

“We received information from a variety of sources, community reporters, who advised that there was a rise in sexual assaults that were unreported, so we don’t actually have victims or incidents of sexual assault being reported to us,” Riley said. “We were being told that there was a rise in these things that occurred because of drug activity on or around the college campus involving parties. We decided to tackle the narcotics side of the investigation and focused on [off-campus allegations].”

Riley said he believes these reports were of people unknowingly consuming intoxicants at parties and then being assaulted, although he does not believe the intoxicants used were typical date-rape drugs. He said the Tri-Rivers Task Force’s role in the investigation was to help the WPD identify individuals distributing drugs that he believes were fueling sexual assaults.

However, none of the individuals arrested have been charged with offenses related to sexual assault. Riley said he does not know how in the course of the investigation the suspects arrested were identified, but they were targeted because they were dealing drugs. Riley said more arrests and more charges are possible in continuing phases of the investigation.

“The genesis of this was the information we received,” Riley said. “We decided to target illegal drug activities. I can’t say specifically … that these are the ones providing drugs to the parties … in targeting that particular activity.”

Criminal complaints from the 10 arrests date as far back as Dec. 7. The majority cite offenses beginning in February 2018. These complaints reveal at least one informant bought drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, LSD, steroids and amphetamines, including from rooms in residence halls such as Brown and Barrett halls.

The court documents also indicate that police used drug-sniffing dogs to detect these substances, while other controlled purchases were recorded by surveillance. Riley said he was not familiar with the specifics of either, and could not comment further on the use of drug-sniffing dogs and controlled purchases.

The WPD seized LSD, cocaine, psilocybin (mushrooms), opioids, amphetamines, steroids, hashish and marijuana. In one suspect’s room, they also recovered approximately $14,000 in cash.

While the WPD ran the investigation jointly with the Tri-Rivers Task Force, which consists of police departments from places like Matthews County and Gloucester County, the William and Mary Police Department was not involved in the investigation and was not notified of the arrests until the day they were made.

According to Riley, the WPD did not notify the WMPD because the sexual assault allegations that prompted the investigation referenced off-campus locations, which he said meant their participation was not required.

“We know the university is not immune to crimes that affect all of society but as an institution and a member of this community, we take the issue of drugs — and all matters of crime prevention and safety — seriously,” seurattan said

College spokesperson Suzanne Seurattan said the news of these arrests was not expected by College officials.

“The news of these arrests was both surprising and disappointing,” Seurattan said in a press statement. “We know the university is not immune to crimes that affect all of society but as an institution and a member of this community, we take the issue of drugs — and all matters of crime prevention and safety — seriously. When we learn about issues on our campus we investigate promptly, take legal action as necessary and provide resources to anyone in our community dealing with drug use problem or addiction. It is an issue we must and will continue to focus on as a university.”

Student Assembly President Brendan Boylan ’19, SA Vice President Samir Tawalare ’19 and SA Chief of Staff Rachel Becker ’19 sent a campus-wide email April 19 sharing their concerns that the WPD did not give the WMPD further notice. They also said that they were upset about the release of suspects’ names and photos.

Police departments are required to release details about arrested individuals, such as names, ages and pictures if available. This is mandated by the Virginia General Attorney’s office through the Freedom of Information Act.

“Neither President Reveley’s office nor the William & Mary Police Department were made aware of the operation and were in no way involved,” Boylan, Tawalare and Becker said in the email. “They have made their feelings of frustration and disappointment known to the City of Williamsburg and the Williamsburg Chief of Police. To add insult to injury, WPD sent out a press release that 1) made a disgusting and erroneous claim that the operation was in response to ‘unreported sexual assaults due to an increase in drug activity,’ 2) released the names and pictures of the students involved, and 3) thanked ‘community partners’ for their cooperation, in spite of leaving their most important community partner, the College, completely in the dark regarding the operation.”

Who was arrested?

Keegan Paugh ’18 was charged with one count of marijuana distribution, one count of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, four counts of possession of a Schedule II drug, which are substances defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, one count of possession of a Schedule III drug, which are drugs with moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence, and one count of marijuana possession.

Daniel McBride ’20 was charged with two counts of distribution of a Schedule II drug and two counts of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Bilodliddin Tulamirza ’21 was charged with one count of felony distribution of marijuana and one count of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Shannon Cannaday ’19 was charged with one count of felony distribution of marijuana and one count of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Nicolas Manuel ’18 was charged with one count of distribution of a Schedule I drug, a drug that has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, and one count of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Devin Moore ’19 was charged with five counts of distribution of a Schedule I drug, two counts of distribution of a Schedule II drug and five counts of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Alexander Foley ’19 was charged with one count of distribution of a Schedule II drug and one count of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Jacob Selmonosky ’21 was charged with two counts of distribution of a Schedule II drug and two counts of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

Biology professor Gi Sang Yoon was also arrested and charged with two counts of felony distribution of marijuana and one count of possession of hashish.

Timothy Pryor, who, according to the court documents, works for Sodexo, was charged with one count of felony distribution of marijuana.

The police took all 10 individuals to the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail where they were all booked and processed. All of those arrested are free on bond except Tulamirza, who was released on his own recognizance as no bail was set for him.

Moving forward

Cannaday, Manuel, Tulamirza, Selmonosky and Yoon are scheduled to appear in the General District Court April 24. McBride, Moore, Paugh and Pryor are scheduled to appear May 31. Foley’s court date is June 7.

While Seurattan said the College cannot comment on specific matters of student discipline, any criminal complaints can trigger the university’s student disciplinary process.

Correction: While the Williamsburg Police Department notified the College of the William and Mary, they did not in fact notify the College before the arrests were made.