A fire alarm led to the discovery of nine and a half pounds of marijuana and thousands of cash inside the off-campus apartment of a Penn State Altoona sophomore, according to Logan Township police.
Endri Zenelaj, 20, of Peapack, N.J., turned himself in to Logan Township police Wednesday to face felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from a search of Zenelaj's room, 223 C Campus View Drive, on Sunday.
According to police, police accompanied Logan Township firefighters to Nittany Pointe for a fire alarm about 3:30 a.m. Sunday and assisted in searching for people still inside their apartments. After finding marijuana and drug paraphernalia in one of the apartments, police were pointed to Zenelaj's apartment as the source of the marijuana, police said.
After talking to Zenelaj's roommates, police secured a search warrant and uncovered the nine and a half pounds of pot, $7,665 in cash and a digital scale in Zenelaj's room.
Zenelaj's attorney, Sean McGraw of State College, told Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson during Zenelaj's arraignment Wednesday afternoon that his client has a criminal history that includes a couple of driving under the influence charges, as well as a possession of a small amount of marijuana charge, all from New Jersey.
Zenelaj was born in Albania and came to the U.S. as a refugee in the early 1990s along with his father, McGraw said. Both are U.S. citizens, he added.
McGraw asked Jackson to free Zenelaj on unsecured bail, pointing out his good standing at Penn State and the unlikeliness he would flee the country since he's lived here since he was 3 years old.
Blair County District Attorney Pete Weeks argued via a phone conference with the judge that Zenelaj was not your typical Penn State student caught with some pot, noting that, with the large amount of cash and drugs, a cash bail was more appropriate.
Weeks also said witnesses involved with the case have expressed concern that Zenelaj would retaliate if freed, a notion Zenelaj's attorney said had not been substantiated.
Jackson set bail at $50,000 cash, and Zenelaj was taken to Blair County Prison with a preliminary hearing slated for April 3.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.