DA: Armed California deputy drove 250 pounds of pot to York County
A California sheriff's deputy was armed with his duty weapon when he and two others drove 247 pounds of high-quality marijuana worth more than $2 million to a York County home in two oversized pickup trucks, according to York County District Attorney Tom Kearney.
"One has to be both saddened and angry" that a law-enforcement officer was allegedly involved, Kearney said.
Police seized Yuba County Deputy Christopher M. Heath's work handgun, plus the millions of dollars worth of pot, on Dec. 29 when they arrested him, Tyler N. Long and Ryan J. Falsone for allegedly delivering what officials said is a massive haul of weed to a home in the first block of Frogtown Road in West Manheim Township.
"This was a very sophisticated operation," Kearney said, and "obviously" a large one.
York County police officers and detectives involved in the "collaborative effort" didn't know Heath was a deputy until after they arrested him, according to Kearney.
Last stop? Kearney declined to say whether the Frogtown Road home was the trio's final destination, or whether they allegedly had more deliveries to make.
Also seized from the men were $11,000 in cash and the two pickup trucks, he said.
Heath, Long and Falsone were released from York County Prison after posting $1 million bail each. Their bail conditions allow them to return to California, according to the office of District Judge James Miner.
During a press conference Monday at the Penn Township police station, Kearney wondered aloud how an officer or deputy could afford to post such a high bail amount. None of the defendants could be reached for comment.
Variety packs: Pot varieties among the seized bags included Super Skunk, Purple Kush, Black Lime, Big Red, XXX and Sour Diesel.
Each package holds at least a pound of pot and was double-bagged and vacuum-sealed, with a dryer sheet tucked in the outer bag to control the smell. Both Kearney and chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday said they were surprised that no smell escaped the bags.
"This is a startling amount of marijuana," Sunday said, adding the estimated value of more than $2 million "is a conservative one."
It is also high-quality marijuana, he said.
"We spend a majority of our time focusing on heroin and cocaine (dealers)," Sunday said of the York County Drug Task Force, but said it's still important to focus on the illegal pot trade.
Deputy on vacation: Heath was on vacation when he was arrested, according to a news release from the Yuba County Sheriff's Department, which has begun an administrative investigation.
Heath is being placed on paid leave pending the outcome of that investigation, according to Undersheriff Jerry Read.
"He was assigned to a narcotics task force ... (for) almost three years," Read said, and confirmed Heath was considered an "adequate" officer. Heath initially was hired as a county prison corrections officer in 2003 and was promoted to deputy sheriff in 2007.
Read said the Yuba County Sheriff's Office was not investigating Heath prior to him being arrested in York County.
"Conditions are very good in Yuba County for the growing of marijuana," Read said. "We take down high-poundage dealers with some frequency, and take down growing operations sometimes with as many as a thousand plants."
Drug Task Force: Police departments around York County were involved in the collaborative effort, spearheaded by the York County Drug Task Force, Kearney said Monday during a press conference at the Penn Township Police station.
He said he must be careful not to release too many details about the arrests and the investigation that led up to them.
"Suffice it to say this was not a routine traffic stop," the DA said.
Kearney declined to say whether York County law enforcement learned on its own about the delivery, or whether they were tipped off by an out-of-county agency.
Feds alerted: He confirmed he's been in contact with federal authorities about the bust. Kearney said he doesn't yet know whether federal officials will undertake their own investigation.
Heath, 37, of Bangor, California; Long, 31, of Bangor, California; and Falsone, 27, of Oroville, California, are each charged with two counts of marijuana possession with intent to deliver and one count of criminal conspiracy. All the offenses are felonies.
In attendance at Monday's press conference were police chiefs whose departments were involved, including Penn Township Police, West Manheim Township Police, Hanover Police, Northern York County Regional Police, York Area Regional Police, Springettsbury Township Police and the York barracks of Pennsylvania State Police. Penn Township Police Officer Travis Shearer filed the charges.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.