Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Student Faces Fresh Drug Charges

A U.S. student arrested on drugs charges has been accused of a second heavier charge of being involved in a drug-dealing ring, investigators said Monday.

Senior criminal investigator Andrei Makarov said that John Tobin, 24, already charged with illegal possession and sale of drugs, now faced the heavier charge of being part of a drug-dealing ring and a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Tobin, a Fulbright scholar with a letter of recommendation from the State Department, denies all the charges and says drugs were planted on him.

Tobin's lawyer, Vladimir Kulinich, said the latest charge was very weak because police have not arrested or questioned any members of the alleged group.

The Federal Security Service initially linked Tobin to U.S intelligence services, but the FSB later said there were no grounds for spying charges.

Makarov said Tobin's suspected accomplices were U.S. citizens who had since left Russia. He said separate criminal cases had been launched against them.

Makarov said the investigation was nearly finished and Tobin's case was likely to go to court soon.

Tobin was first held on Jan. 25 and detained on Feb. 1 after failing to go back for questioning. He was accused of possessing 4.5 grams of marijuana at a night club in Voronezh, an industrial city about 475 kilometers south of Moscow, where he was working on a political science thesis.

The FSB scrutinized Tobin's research in Voronezh for signs he was training for intelligence work. But it said later his research was in line with his planned dissertation and there were no grounds for spying charges.