(Corrects name of FDA in second paragraph.)
(Bloomberg) — Four Wesleyan University neuroscience students were arrested on drug charges after overdoses of the ecstasy drug Molly put 12 partygoers in the hospital.
One was a former intern for Merrill Lynch and the Food and Drug Administration, and another an applications developer for a Jordanian development fund, according to their social-media profiles. A third founded a group that advocates legalizing drugs.
Ten students and two visitors were hospitalized on Sunday after taking Molly at a Wesleyan party. Two remain in Hartford Hospital where they were airlifted, according to police in Middletown, Connecticut, where the school is based.
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“The safety and welfare of our citizens, including those on the Wesleyan campus, remains our top priority,” William McKenna, Middletown’s police chief, said in a statement. “Incidents jeopardizing the safety will not be tolerated and those offenders will be held accountable.”
Eric Lonergan, 21, of Rio de Janeiro, and Andrew Olson, 20, of Atascadero, California, were charged with supplying or selling drugs. Zachary Kramer, 21, of Bethesda, Maryland, and Rama Agha Al Nakib, 20, of Lutherville, Maryland, were charged with possession, police said.
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Wesleyan said it suspended the four students pending a formal hearing.
“The University takes allegations of the distribution of drugs seriously and is cooperating with state and local officials,” President Michael Roth said in a statement.
The students were arrested late Tuesday. Lonergan was apprehended at Wesleyan’s Buddhist House, while Kramer was taken into custody when visiting a friend at Hartford Hospital, according to their arraignment reports. The other two were arrested at their campus residences.
Olson was released on bond. The other three were arraigned Wednesday and didn’t enter pleas, according to a court clerk. All four are scheduled to appear in court on March 3.
Lonergan, who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Brazil, is a fourth-year student with a “very impressive” 3.4 grade point average and no criminal history, his attorney, John R. Donovan, said in a phone interview.
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A search of his room didn’t reveal any Molly or MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, Donovan said. “Nor was there any information that he attended this party or sold anything to the people who were affected.”
Jennifer Zito, an attorney for Kramer, said no drugs were found in his possession and he was released on $5,000 bond.
“He’s been caught up in a dragnet sweep by law enforcement,” Zito said in a phone interview. “He’s an exceptional kid and an exceptional student.” Kramer won a slam poetry contest and sings in an a capella group, she said.
The other students couldn’t be reached and the court clerk couldn’t say who represented them. Lawyers for some of the defendants told the Associated Press that no Molly was found in room searches.
Kramer, a sophomore, worked as an intern for a global wealth management team at the Washington office of Merrill Lynch in the summer 2013 and held an internship at the FDA a year earlier, according to his LinkedIn profile. Spokeswomen for both didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Olson founded the Wesleyan chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy in 2013 and is co-president. Last year, he called the arrest of two students for marijuana possession an “arbitrary turn of events” in an interview the Wesleyan Argus, the campus newspaper.
Betty Aldworth, executive director of the Washington-based group, declined to comment on the criminal investigation.
Nakib is a fashion archivist and was an applications developer for the King Abdullah II Fund for Development in Amman, Jordan, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Overdoses of Molly cause overheating that can lead to organ failure. The drug is often adulterated with other chemicals, such as amphetamines or designer drugs known as “bath salts,” making it more dangerous.
The Wesleyan batch may have contained several designer chemicals, making health risks unpredictable and treatment complex and problematic, McKenna said. The state forensics lab is working to identify what the students ingested.
“There’s no such thing as a ‘good batch’ when you’re dealing with these synthetic drugs,” said Anthony Pettigrew, a spokesman for the New England division of the Drug Enforcement Agency. “You’re using something you have no idea what it is.”
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