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NEW YORK - Five Columbia University students sold LSD-spiked candy and a full menu of other drugs at three fraternity houses and other residences on the Ivy League campus, where it was believed at least one of the suspects was using the drug money for school expenses, authorities said Tuesday.
The students, including engineering and biology majors, were arrested at dawn on Tuesday at the prestigious college in upper Manhattan. They were led into a Manhattan courtroom later in the day shackled together, some wearing Columbia and fraternity sweat shirts.
Arraignments were pending on multiple drug dealing charges alleging they were supplied by violent traffickers.
Authorities called it one of the largest drug takedowns on a New York City college campus in recent memory.
The allegations go "against not only state and federal law, but also university policy and the principles we have set - and strive together to maintain - for our community," school officials said in a letter to students. "Please rest assured we are taking this matter very seriously." The arrest culminated a five-month probe -dubbed "Operation Ivy League" - that relied on a youthful undercover officer posing as a drug middleman for another college outside the city.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said the officer made 31 purchases of LSD, marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and prescription stimulants.
Authorities said most of the arrested students' customers were other students and friends buying smaller amounts for recreational use. The liquid LSD was sold in Altoids and SweeTarts.
The investigation led authorities to three traffickers in the East Village and Brooklyn, including one charged with plotting to kidnap rival dealers for ransom. The suspect allegedly tried to recruit a second undercover officer to use a stun gun on his victims and drug them with LSD.
The students sold drugs "to turn a quick profit, but subjected themselves to risks, of which they were either ignorant or in denial," Brennan said in a statement. "These students were playing with fire."
Authorities say at least one of the students told investigators that he was selling drugs to help pay for his education. Said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly: "This is no way to work your way through college."
Associated Press Writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.