2 Drexel students among 5 charged in LSD ring

Posted: January 31, 2012

Authorities have charged five people, including two Drexel University students, in connection with a profitable LSD-distribution ring that operated out of a West Philadelphia home near the school's campus.

In the early morning hours Tuesday, authorities who raided the house on the 4800 block of Florence Street found 9,500 hits of acid, worth about $28,000 on the street, as well as about $10,000 in cash.

Police said the alleged dealers were clearing a total of $5,000 to $15,000 weekly by selling acid for $10 to $30 per hit, often on paper printed with colorful images of Homer Simpson, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Kool-Aid Man.

Police arrested 31-year-old Joshua Dassay, who lives in the home, as well as Wesley Crawford, 34, of Ardmore, and Raphael Zappala, 33, of nearby 50th Street. All were charged with possession with intent to deliver, conspiracy and related offenses.

They also were charged with endangering the welfare of a child, because police said Dassay's infant was in the home during drug sales. Dassay's girlfriend also lives in the home but was not charged, police said. Dassay is wanted on drug charges by police in other states, authorities said.

Also charged were two Drexel students who bought drugs from the group and later assisted police in the investigation. Their names were not released because they acted as confidential informants.

In a statement, Drexel University said that the school has a "zero tolerance policy" for illegal activity.

"When Drexel is made aware of any students participating in illegal behavior, the University places them on indefinite suspension pending the outcome of the investigation," the statement said.

Authorities believe the ring was operating near Drexel's campus for more than a year, District Attorney Seth Williams said.

The investigation began Jan. 18, after police in Upper Moreland Township contacted Philadelphia authorities after arresting a Drexel student on marijuana and gun charges. The student told police he had information about an acid ring, then allowed the District Attorney's Office to record phone calls between himself and another student, arranging a drug transaction.

After the second student was arrested, he also agreed to cooperate and further assisted with the investigation, police said.

Police believe Dassay, Crawford, and Zappala used a multi-step process in which buyers had to meet with Crawford or Zappala on the street, hand over money, and wait until they returned with the drugs.

The case prompted local officials to brush up on their background knowledge of LSD, a psychedelic, mood-altering substance that is rarely the center of a large-scale drug operation.

"Frankly, nobody had dealt with an acid ring in this area for upwards of about 15 years," said Brian Grady, of the Dangerous Drug Offender unit of the District Attorney's Office.

LSD is made from a fungus that grows on rye. It is ingested with blotter paper or in liquid form, and can cause strong hallucinations, delusions, or altered thinking, including a distorted sense of time and space. It is considered nonaddictive but can have long-term effects such as "flashbacks," in which the user experiences sensations after the drug has worn off.

Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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