5 Fraternity Members Charged in Connection with Alcohol Poisoning Death of UCI Student

Five members of a UC Irvine fraternity are facing misdemeanor charges following the January death by alcohol poisoning of a fellow, underage member at an off-campus fraternity house, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

While prosecutors have determined that there is no evidence that the fraternity members hazed 18-year-old Noah Domingo the night of his death, they are accusing them of furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Zavier Larenz Brown, 21, Jonathan Anephi Vu, 22, Mohamed Ibragim Kharaev, 21, Caleb Gavin Valleroy, 20, and Jonathan Gabriel Villicana, 21, were all on the lease of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house in Irvine when Domingo died, according to a DA statement.

In a 911 recording released after the death, a caller told an emergency dispatcher that Domingo had “drank too much” and then fell asleep. The caller said Domingo was not breathing, and that his body appeared blue.

Irvine Police previously indicated that they were not called to the house until 9:42 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12, though Domingo is believed to have died hours earlier, at about 3:30 a.m.

Coroner investigators determined that Domingo died of alcohol poisoning, estimating that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.331 at the time of his death.

Prosecutors allege that Domingo had been drinking with other fraternity members as part of “Big Brother Night,” having joined the fraternity several months prior.

Brown, who prosecutors allege was Domingo’s “Big Brother” at the fraternity, has been charged with a misdemeanor count of furnishing alcohol to a minor causing great bodily injury. Vu is facing a misdemeanor count of furnishing an alcoholic beverage to a minor.

All five defendants are also charged with a misdemeanor count of allowing a party or gathering where underage drinking is permitted.

If convicted, Brown faces up to 18 months in jail, while the other men face up to six months behind bars.

In announcing the charges, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said his office was constrained by state law that limited them from filing anything but misdemeanors in the case. Spitzer added that he plans to pursue legislation to change those state laws.

“Providing alcohol to those under the legal drinking age is reckless and dangerous, especially in an environment that is notorious for excessive drinking by young people who may not understand the potential risks of their behavior,” Spitzer said in a statement. “The furnishing of alcohol to a minor that results in great bodily injury or death should be a felony.”

The Irvine chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was suspended following Domingo’s death. Its charter was later suspended by the fraternity’s national organization, effectively shutting it down at UCI indefinitely.

On Wednesday, UCI spokesman Tom Vasich said Sigma Alpha Epsilon is no longer registered as a fraternity at the campus.

“We remain saddened by Noah’s tragic death earlier this year,” Vasich said. “We are committed to educating our campus community on the dangers of underage drinking and are invested in preventing another such tragedy from occurring again. Following Noah’s death, UCI empowered a task force to identify and institute a wide range of steps to promote whole-person health and well-being for every member of our campus community. This is our pledge to Noah.”

The fraternity’s national organization did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions about the criminal charges.

After his death, Domingo, of La Crescenta, was remembered as a sincere friend and spirited athlete who had played football and basketball at Crescenta Valley High School before graduating in 2018. He was hoping to enter the field of sports medicine, with the eventual goal of working as a doctor in the NBA.

The five defendants have been ordered to appear in court for an arraignment hearing on Nov. 21. It isn’t clear from court records if any of them have hired attorneys.