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Former West Point cadet Chris Monge was thrown out of school and into military prison for dealing and using cocaine, Xanax and opiates at the country’s foremost military academy in 2017.
Army prosecutors called him a drug “kingpin” at the US Military Academy in Orange County, NY.
Monge, now, 27, was so hooked on opiates that even when he returned to the campus in disgrace to meet with his lawyer and prep for his court martial, he was using.
Over the three-day process, he drove more than two-and-a-half hours — twice — back to his Allentown, Penn., hometown to get through it.
“I was high the day of the hearing,” Monge told The Post. “I pled guilty to all charges and got sentenced to thirty months at Fort Leavenworth. I did fifteen months and was paroled for ten months.”
He hopes West Point may be more forgiving of the cadets who ingested fentanyl-tainted cocaine during a spring break getaway in Wilton Manors, Fla., on March 11.
The five New York cadets — all men in their early 20s and at least one a football player — had been partying at an Airbnb rental north of Fort Lauderdale, neighbors said. All but one have been released from the hospital.
A former Air Force cadet who attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., said he wasn’t surprised to hear at least one football player was among the overdose victims.
“Cocaine was really prevalent among the football team,” he told The Post. “They would wait until a long weekend to do it because it leaves your system quickly. Weed can stay for a long time. We were randomly tested at the academy.”
Drug experts say cocaine or its metabolites typically can show up on a blood or saliva test for up to 2 days, a urine test for up to 3 days and a hair test for months or even years.
Police have not yet identified the cadets and West Point did not return repeated calls for comment. It’s not immediately clear what disciplinary measures the cadets face, but illegal drug use can be grounds for immediate expulsion.
In 2001, three cadets at the Air Force Academy were caught doing drugs in a random drug test. Two were court-martialed and put in prison, the third resigned under pressure, and nine cadets were put on probation just for knowing about the drug use but not telling authorities.
Monge’s bust in 2016 involved five other cadets, including a defensive back on West Point’s famed football team, the Army Black Nights. Jared Rogers was not accused of selling drugs but he was addicted to pain pills. His crime was allowing a fellow cadet to use his car to bring drugs on campus.
Monge and Tevin Long, another West Point football player, were both court-martialed. Rogers avoided criminal charges but was given a dishonorable discharge.
Greg T. Rinckey, an attorney who specializes in military law and a former JAG (Army Judge Advocate General), has both prosecuted and defended soldiers, including West Point students, on everything from drug possession to murder.
Rinckey said the cadets will probably be “dis-enrolled” from the school, which is West Point-speak for “expelled.”
“It will depend on what defense counsel is going to spin,” Rinckey told The Post. “‘Fentanyl was in the brownies! They didn’t know!’ Or, ‘They thought they were smoking marijuana but fentanyl was in the joint.’ But if there are witnesses who say they saw [the cadets] buying and ingesting cocaine that’s something else altogether.”
West Point cadets are technically active-duty Army cadets and subject to being criminally charged, according to the UCMJ, or Uniform Code of Military Justice. They could also face a separate administrative action.
In a case like this one, Rinckey said, the usual process is that the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) will examine the case and present a report to the Superintendent of West Point, Lt. General Darryl A. Williams, who is likely to make a final decision about how to proceed in consultation with an Army lawyer, or Judge Advocate.
If kicked out, they’ll also have to pay back tuition. Schooling is normally free as long as students graduate and fulfill five years of military service.
“Uncle Sam is going to want his money back,” Rinckey said.
Monge knows all about that. He was told he owed $170,000 in tuition money after he was kicked out of West Point, a figure that’s now jumped to over $200,000 with interest. He said he recently got a notice asking him to pay $5,000 a month toward his bill, which he said is impossible given his modest job as a salesman at a trucking company.
He hopes the cadets who overdosed avoid his fate.
“If West Point is open about it and understanding, they can treat it more like alcohol [abuse] and think in terms of rehab rather than just slamming the book at them,” Monge told The Post.
“At the end of the day it’s another college — but at other colleges students have a lot more freedom to test the same waters and make mistakes in judgment,” Monge said. “It’s just because West Point is this prestigious university held to a higher standard. How many students do you think are doing hard drugs at Penn State? Plenty.”
A copy of a letter about the cadet overdoses in Florida, emailed to the school and its alumni on March 14 from Lt. General Williams, was obtained by The Post,
“Members of the Long Gray Line,” the letter began. “As many of you know, the United States Military Academy has been working through a serious incident involving several Cadets. The health and safety of all our Cadets is my top concern and priority. I ask that you refrain from speculating or commenting on the details of any ongoing investigation.
“We will continue to support any ongoing investigation, and once completed, we will take appropriate action to ensure the health and safety of our Cadets and to maintain good order and discipline within the Corps. America looks to the Academy to develop leaders who embody the highest level of character. Character development is the most important thing we do here at the Academy. Good order and discipline are vitally important to our success. Therefore, illegal drugs of any kind have no place at West Point, in our Army, or in our Military.”
Lucian Truscott IV, a 1969 graduate and legacy of West Point who wrote the 1978 classic “Dress Gray,” said that alcohol and drug abuse have been rampant in the Army — and at West Point — for decades.
“The idea of these guys buying alleged cocaine with fentanyl doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said.
He was skeptical about Williams’ letter and whether or not West Point would make any serious effort to combat drugs and alcohol on campus.
“‘Character development’ is something that’s nice to do, but what they’re doing at West Point is training people to kill people in wars,” Truscott told The Post. “They don’t give a f–k as long as you kill people. [Gen.] George Patton was terribly anti-Semitic. But they were fine with him as long as he was killing Nazis.”
Monge said he was not subject to random drug tests during the academic year, only when he returned to school at the start of the year. Even so, he said, he kept a small shampoo-sized bottle of a friend’s clean urine in a desk drawer that he could grab “if I got the call.”
Fort Lauderdale fire and rescue officials initially reported that four people in the Florida spring break rental had taken a substance believed to be cocaine laced with fentanyl, and that two others were exposed to the fentanyl when they tried to administer life-saving CPR.
Four were hospitalized after a chaotic scene at the house.
“People are passing out. Three people passed out, because they drank a lot. Like a lot a lot,” the frantic 911 caller said as raised voices and commotion were heard in the background.
“They did some coke and they’ve been drinking heavily for the last couple days and they’re …” he said, trailing off as he consoled a crying woman.
“We good. We good. We good. It’s okay baby, don’t worry about it,” he told her, as someone in the background was heard yelling “Hold it the f–k together.”
Cub Larkin, 46, who lives across the street from the house, said that drug ODs from fentanyl-laced drugs are not uncommon in Wilton Manors. There’s a waiting list to get Narcan, a prescription nasal spray used to reverse the effects of an overdose, he said, and many people keep a container in their homes and in the glove compartments of their cars.
Larkin told The Post that he has seen people overdose before but never with the “intensity” he witnessed the afternoon of March 11. He said he and his husband heard police sirens and went outside to see what was happening.
“I saw four people removed from house on stretches,” Larkin said. “I could have sworn that two of the young gentlemen were dead. What really sticks in my mind was how unresponsive they were. They were just flopping off the stretchers. I’ve never seen anyone so unconscious.”
An alleged supplier of cocaine was arrested on Saturday in connection with the tainted batch given the cadets after making a sale to an undercover officer. Axel Giovany Casseus, 21, is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Although his life didn’t take the route he had planned while at the school, Monge — who said he’s been clean since his hearing date of May 10, 2017, he was whisked off to prison — believes that what happened to him “was a blessing in disguise. I came to terms with why I was using and found God.”
But he fears the Army will throw the book at the cadets and they might end up labeled as felons “for the rest of their lives,” he said. “Meanwhile, there’s so many other people at West Point and elsewhere that do the same thing and get away with it.”
Truscott, however, doesn’t think the cadets will be expelled.
“If they kicked out everyone at West Point or in the army who abused alcohol and/or drugs,” he said, “we wouldn’t have an army or an academy.”