AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thirteen defendants plead guilty in 2022 to charges from the 2020 DOJ drug sting “Operation Spyder Web,” which uncovered a million-dollar drug operation near the University of Texas at Austin.
Defendants include eight former UT students, as well as individuals not associated with the school. All 17 defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Those who pled guilty are: Charles Zenker, Varun Prasad, Drew Zarate, Christopher Edwards, Jakob Schelling, Madison Scott, Adrian Andreescu, Nikit Shingari, Nolan Fogleman, Samuel Parry, Brandon Carpenter, Robert Byabato and Ashley LaRue.
These defendants are scheduled for sentencing Jan.13, 2023.
Four others pleaded not guilty to the charges and await a jury trial: Alexander Franshaw, Dominic Franshaw, Elliot Franshaw and Austin businessman Benny Daneshjou. Jury selection is set to begin for their trials Jan. 9, 2023.
Prasad, Larue and Zarate also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Daneshjou still faces that charge.
KXAN previously reported that federal investigators claim Daneshjou laundered money from the operation to use on real estate for the dealers to produce and store narcotics.
“These kids, they’re all well-educated. We saw eight current or former UT students that were members of this organization. We saw mathematics majors, chemistry majors, a psychology major, business majors, and they decided to turn their talents into this illicit operation,” said then DEA Special Agent in Charge Steven S. Whipple at a 2020 press conference.
According to the DOJ, the group sold LSD, psilocybin, fentanyl, Alprazolam, Adderall, Xanax, marijuana and methamphetamine to Austin residents, including UT students. Some of the narcotics are identified by authorities as counterfeits. Firearms and $100,000 were also seized by authorities.