March 08, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A Wesleyan University football player pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges that he distributed a synthetic drug to fellow members of his team.

Ryan Welch, 22, from Salem, Massachusetts, was accused of providing up to 20 teammates with a drug mixture that was described in court papers as a synthetic version of ''Molly and acid.'' Authorities say it was known as ''Welchie's Special.''

Welch, a defensive back for the Connecticut school's football team, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport to possession with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.

The federal investigation began in October, when emergency crews responded to a student at a dormitory who went into convulsions after taking the drug. That student was hospitalized for several days.

''Too many young people believe synthetic drugs are harmless party drugs when, as this case makes abundantly clear, they are highly dangerous,'' Deirdre M. Daly, United States attorney for the District of Connecticut, said in a statement.

Authorities discovered that Welch had been distributing the drug to teammates since August or September, first in liquid form mixed with a non-alcoholic drink and later as a powder in capsules, according to an affidavit.

He was paid about $10 a dose, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Welch purchased the psychedelic drug known as 2C-B, the controlled substance in his mixture, on the Internet.

University spokeswoman Lauren Rubenstein, without referring to Welch by name, said he has been placed on interim suspension from Wesleyan, pending a campus judicial hearing. She said she could not comment on the specifics of the case because it is a legal matter.

''The safety of our students is our top priority, and we have and continue to cooperate fully with the authorities on such matters,'' she said.

Phone and email messages seeking comment were left with Welch's attorney.

Welch was freed on $100,000 bond and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 20. The charges carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence, but it is not clear what a pre-sentencing report might recommend in this case.

It was not clear if any other members of the football team face discipline or are the subjects of any further criminal investigation. No one else has been charged.

The football team finished the season at 5-3 after losing to rival Trinity College.

The case follows the arrest a year ago of five Wesleyan students who were charged with distributing Molly on campus after a rash of on-campus overdoses Two of those students have since pleaded guilty to federal charges.

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