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Students Expelled in Cocaine Incident

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Fourteen students have been expelled from Choate Rosemary Hall School in Wallingford, Conn., following the arrest of one for allegedly trying to smuggle $300,000 worth of cocaine into the country.

Officials at the prestigious preparatory school--whose list of graduates includes John F. Kennedy and Adlai E. Stevenson--are saying little about the expulsions.

What is being revealed is that two students, "while under the jurisdiction of their parents," flew to Caracas, Venezuela, last month. Upon their return, school officials say, the students "were stopped, questioned, and searched. Cocaine was found in the luggage of one of the students."

That student, Derek Oatis, was arrested on April 23 and charged in connection with illegal possession of cocaine said to be worth $300,000.

A spokesperson for the Queens County District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case, said the student's next court appearance is May 17.

Following the incident at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, school officials launched their own investigation and found that 12 students were also "involved in the matter," said Janet Muller Benway, publications editor at Choate Rosemary Hall School. They have been dismissed, she said.

She would not say why or when they were expelled from the school.

"To give additional information now could only further hurt the young people and their families, who have already been hurt enough," she said.

Law enforcement officials say the student and a classmate were stopped by U.S. Customs officials for a random check when the drugs were found.

"We call it a 'cold hit,"' said Michael C. Kaufman, regional public affairs director of the U.S. Customs Service in New York. "It's an expression we use when we catch somebody without any prior information. There was no intelligence involved. Nobody called with any information to watch out for this guy."

Mr. Kaufman said customs agents found about three-quarters of a pound of cocaine, which he said is worth up to $300,000 on the street in packets in the student's pockets and luggage.

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