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San Diego State Students Due in Court After Drug Bust

Students arrested in an undercover sting operation at San Diego State University are now at the mercy of the court system, where officials say those charged with the most serious cocaine offenses could face sentences of up to 10 years.

A 19-year-old Theta Chi fraternity member accused of sending text messages advertising blowout specials on cocaine was due to be arraigned Thursday in San Diego Superior Court. Kenneth Ciaccio, who allegedly offered to sell as much as a quarter-pound of the drug to undercover agents, is being held in lieu of $250,000 bond.

Ciaccio was among 13 fraternity members arrested in early morning raids Tuesday at fraternity houses and off-campus housing. University officials said 33 students have been suspended as a result of the busts.

Federal officials said 128 people, at least 75 of them students, were arrested over the course of the five-month investigation. Some students detained for minor drug offenses or other infractions turned informants for federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents who asked them for introductions to students suspected of running small-scale trafficking operations near Fraternity Row.

Lawyers for two students who pleaded not guilty to marijuana charges said their clients should not have been lumped in with those involved in trafficking.

"It seems a little heavy handed to go into a college campus with DEA agents to ferret out students who are selling small amounts of marijuana," said attorney Gretchen Von Helms. Her client, 19-year-old Joshua Matsuda, faces up to 3 years and eight months in jail if convicted on charges of possessing marijuana for sale.

His roommate, Jarrod Skippon, faces similar charges after agents allegedly found marijuana and 30 vials of hash oil at their apartment. Skippon's lawyer, Marc Carlos, said a female undercover agent asked his client to sell her pot after they met at a party.

"We're talking about a 19-year-old," Carlos said. "So they're caught in the sting, and they're being asked to put agents in touch with sellers."

The boys, both freshmen, have each been released on $10,000 bail.

Other colleges in San Diego have also been targeted by authorities investigating drug sales.

San Diego sheriff's said about a dozen San Diego gang members set up shop in a luxury apartment building next to the Cal State San Marcos campus, about 40 miles north of San Diego. Sheriff's Sgt. Gary Floyd said the group sells marijuana, methamphetamine and Ecstasy.

Deputies have made seven arrests since late February, but the sergeant says the gang is still active. The gang members are believed to be part of a southeast San Diego gang forced out of town by an injunction.

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