Four University at Buffalo business majors were among seven young adults arrested and accused of operating a major drug ring from their University Heights residence, according to Buffalo police.
Officers seized $64,000 in cash, 9 pounds of marijuana, 8 ounces of Ecstasy and a half-ounce of cocaine from their residence over the weekend, police said.
The enterprise might still be in business if one of the occupants of the house at 51 W. Northrup Place had followed police instructions to move his car, which was parked the wrong way in front of the home late Friday night.
After issuing a parking tag shortly before 11 p.m., Northeast District Officers Roberto Becerril and Christina M. Colosimo returned 45 minutes later to find the car still illegally parked. When they went to look for the owner of the vehicle, the officers found a back door to the house open.
"They could see drugs in a living area," Northeast District Chief Kimberly L. Beaty said Tuesday at a news conference in Mayor Byron W. Brown's City Hall office. "One of the people was wearing a backpack that had drugs in it."
Police secured the location while a search warrant was obtained, according to Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, who said the officers were part of a special detail to curb rowdyism associated with the recent start of college.
"A small incident like illegal parking led to this arrest," Derenda said.
Indications that it was a well-organized enterprise included the seizure of business ledgers used to keep track of sales, police said. When one of the students was being arrested, officers added, he asked whether the drug charges would hurt his chances of getting into law school.
Police say they do not have an answer for that, but they are certain that the arrests will help to quiet University Heights, which often experiences an upswing in assaults and other crimes associated with young people staying out late and partying at the beginning and end of the school year.
Two of the more recent attacks on students, Beaty said, may be connected to rivalries among college fraternities.
"We want to give residents peace of mind that we are out there working to maintain safety in their neighborhoods," Beaty said. "Crime is down in the Northeast District."
Derenda said the U.S. Attorney's Office is reviewing the drug bust to determine whether federal charges will be filed against those arrested, because of the large quantities of illegal substances that were seized.
The UB students arrested were Andrew Pawluk and Marc Harding, both 21 and from Webster; Ruben Abramov, 22, of Ithaca; and Anthony Argiros, 22, of Hancock.
Also arrested were Joseph Mruk, 25, of West Seneca; Brennon Hall, 25, of Custer Street; and Jonathan Ho, 23, of Merrimac Street.
Common Council Member Bonnie E. Russell, who represents the University District, said the arrests are a prime example of why UB police should take a more active role in patrolling the Heights, which is adjacent to the South Campus.
"University at Buffalo police need to revisit their contract to have more patrol details in the Heights, especially on the side streets," Russell said.
"The Buffalo police are doing a fantastic job, but they can't do it alone."
At present, UB police conduct limited patrols on city streets near the South Campus.
Russell added that many students at UB's North Campus in Amherst receive bus transportation to the city campus, party in the Heights and then return to the North Campus.
"If they are going to bus them here, then they should take more responsibility," Russell said of what she considers UB's need to step up and assist.
The bus service, funded with money from the student activity fees, does not provide direct transportation to the Heights.
City police sources, though, said that the university bus service often transports students into the city who are underage and that they end up going to bars and house parties where alcohol is served, adding to the problems in the Heights.