Crime

Grand jury: Former Penn State students operated ‘major marijuana distribution ring’ around State College

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A statewide grand jury recommended charges against 11 former Penn State students, who are accused of operating a “major marijuana distribution ring” in the State College area, according to the 24-page presentment.

State police trooper Eric Guido, who was involved in the investigation and filed the charges, said more than $1.5 million of marijuana was sold since the investigation began in September 2017. Charges were recommended against men and women from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, New York and Texas.

“The ex-students moved so much cash and cannabis that they often had to store it in their home appliances — under the stove, behind the refrigerator, inside the freezer or the clothes dryer,” the grand jury wrote. “This organization received hundreds of pounds of marijuana from New York, California and other areas.”

According to the presentment, Guido testified he became aware of the “drug organization” after a confidential informant purchased about seven pounds of marijuana at 716 E. Beaver Ave. — one of at least six State College residences listed in the presentment.

Police also completed three controlled purchases from Michael Khoury, 22, of Blair County, in October and November 2017. Troopers seized one pound of marijuana, more than $2,000 and drug paraphernalia from Khoury’s bedroom, according to the presentment.

Khoury was charged with two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver and one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility. He was arraigned Thursday by District Judge Carmine Prestia Jr., who set bail at $10,000 unsecured. Khoury’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 14.

Khoury’s defense attorney, John Sisto, declined to comment Friday.

Several witnesses testified three men imported marijuana to the State College area via the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx and other carriers from September 2016 to January 2018. Postal Service records alone confirmed more than 50 packages were shipped to Happy Valley from California, Guido testified.

“The grand jury heard about text message exchanges between the conspirators that confirmed the marijuana sales, the quality and names of the marijuana, the relationships of the various members of the drug organization, the methods and delivery and sales, and the recruitment of other people to sell marijuana and return he proceeds to the source,” the grand jury wrote.

Guido testified about more than 13,500 text messages between the group from October 2016 to November 2017, according to the presentment. The text messages discussed where to store the marijuana, who bought and sold marijuana and how to “keep their business clean,” according to the presentment.

In May 2017, the “boss” said he recently picked up 1,736 bags of soil in the previous two days because it was “planting season” in California.

“The ‘boss’ also sent a message complaining that he had too much product and not enough outlets,” the grand jury wrote.

At least 46 additional charges are pending, including at least 41 felonies. Others accused of being involved were not named because they have not yet been arraigned.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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