‘Operation Spider Web’: 13 arrested in drug trafficking ring that sold to Texas college students


AUSTIN (NewsNation Now/KXAN) — Federal and local officials in Texas arrested 13 individuals in connection with drug trafficking operation that sold to students at University of Texas at Austin.

During the investigation, dubbed “Operation Spider Web,” authorities discovered more than $1 million worth of counterfeit prescription drugs laced with LSD, fentanyl and methamphetamine were sold and distributed to residents in Austin, Texas, including UT students.

“These kids, they’re all well-educated. We saw eight current or former UT students that were members of this organization,” Steve S. Whipple, DEA, said at a Friday news conference. “We saw mathematics majors, chemistry majors, a psychology major, business majors, and they decided to turn their talents into this illicit operation.”

Those arrested include:

  • Varun Prasad, 23, of Austin
  • Charles Zenker, 26 of Houston
  • Benny Daneshjou, 68, of Austin
  • Ashley Larue, 26, of Austin
  • Drew Zarate, 21, of Austin
  • Christopher Edwards, 32, of Portland, Oregon
  • Jacob Schelling, 21, of Cypress, Texas
  • Madison Scott Fogleman, 22, of Austin
  • Samuel Parry, 23, of Austin
  • Brandon Carpenter, 27 of Austin

Authorities charged all of these individuals with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Prasad, Daneshjou, Larue and Zarate are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer said two suspects overdosed and died while the investigation was ongoing. He also said the organization used smartphone apps GroupMe and Venmo to initiate and complete transactions.

A former professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio is also implicated in the case. Rose Rodriguez-Rabin is accused of giving methamphetamine-laced counterfeit drugs to Prasad “on numerous occasions,” Sofer said. She and Brandon Sims were indicted in January on separate cases and are awaiting trial.

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