The alleged supplier of the Columbia drug ring is a scrawny, fidgety 23-year-old East Village pot dealer named Miron Sarzynski. When I visit him at Rikers Island, he cries and vows more than once, as ingenuously as he can manage, to turn over a new leaf. “I never thought it could happen to me,” he says. “There’s two sides to me.” He’s not trying to get through prison by being tough. Compared with Harrison David, he’s a complete mess.
Sarzynski says he came to America from Poland when he was 13 and went to the High School for the Humanities in Manhattan. His parents are divorced. His mother works at Columbia University Medical Center, and his father stayed in Poland. He drifted into dealing, he says, after dropping out of the Borough of Manhattan Community College. “I wanted to make my own money,” he says, and a security job and two clerical jobs didn’t last. Last summer, he and his girlfriend, Megan Asper, moved from Journal Square in Jersey City to a tiny studio on East 6th Street, where Sarzynski set up two storage closets with LED lights and a ventilation system, each able to hold about twenty marijuana plants, as well as the fixings for DMT, a synthetic hallucinogen.
“We’re in love,” he tells me of Asper. The two had met about six months earlier in the webcam chat room on the Stoners United social network. They never made much money selling pot; Sarzynski even worked part time cleaning apartments, advertising on Craigslist.
It isn’t clear how David met Sarzynski. Sarzynski says it was through an NYU student dealer who had a high opinion of David, and a source close to David says it was via a close friend of David’s at Columbia. In any case, they met in June, when David was living in Hell’s Kitchen. David’s share of the rent that summer was $1,300 plus utilities. He was dealing to pay the rent, a source says, and worked construction a few days a week. He was also using more cocaine. “I didn’t even go down there,” a friend of another of the accused students says, “because it was just him doing a lot of lines.”
Sarzynski became David’s coke dealer (although he insists he never dealt to any of the other four Columbia kids), and the two men fell into a routine. They’d meet on the corner of 49th Street and Tenth Avenue, not far from David’s apartment. Sarzynski never sold David more than an ounce of coke at a time—a typical deal would be twenty or so one-gram bags at about $38 or $40 per bag. David could have then sold each bag for anywhere between $60 to $100, depending on the quality and the demand. Sarzynski’s suppliers were three guys from Queens—men he later told police were named Waffel, Pono, and Karate and who “took steroids” and “moved massive amounts of drugs.” He’d hooked up with them through Pono, whom he had known in high school.
“Why do you think I have to do this shit? My dad won’t pay tuition.”
Two months earlier, in April, the NYPD says it had received an anonymous complaint on its Crime Stoppers hotline about drug dealing at Columbia. The police sent an undercover officer to try to make some buys—a young-looking guy with long dirty-blond hair who went by the name of John. Friends of the accused students don’t seem to remember John. He apparently wasn’t posing as a student and didn’t attend classes or have friends at the school. According to the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan, the university was unaware of the entire operation until shortly before the bust. The police, it seems, didn’t want to have to get Columbia involved in helping to establish his cover.
According to one source, John found his way to David through the same Columbia friend who had introduced David to Sarzynski a few weeks earlier. John told David that he was selling drugs on a film set downtown and was looking for supply. David never stopped to think about why a downtown dealer would come looking for drugs at Columbia. Either he was too reckless or too interested in the money to care. The first buy recorded by police—more than 25 grams of pot, or more than enough for ten joints—came on July 29 at 7 p.m. inside an apartment at 517 West 113th Street. There was another pot buy on August 5 at 8:30 p.m. and a third on August 11 at three in the afternoon. David continued selling to John, a source says, even after getting angry at him for putting too much information in his text messages. “He texted like a retard,” a source says, but David never picked up on the clue.