Feds take case against alleged pot-hauling Calif. cop

Sean Philip Cotter

Federal law enforcement has taken over the case against a former California sheriff’s deputy, his postal-employee mother-in-law and two other men who were indicted Thursday on charges that they combined to mail and then drive more than 300 pounds of marijuana to York County and the surrounding area.

York County District Attorney Tom Kearney looks at a pound of marijuana Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, during a press conference at the Penn Township municipal offices announcing major drug arrests. Three California men, including a deputy with the Yuba County Sheriff's Department, were arrested Dec. 29 with 247 pounds of marijuana, which was confiscated along with two vehicles, $11,000 in cash and the deputy's service firearm. (Bill Kalina - The York Dispatch)

Christopher Mark Heath, who’s the former Yuba County Sheriff’s deputy, along with Tyler Neil Long, Ryan Jay Falsone and Ramona Marcel Long, who is Heath’s mother-in-law and Long’s mother, each could spend decades in prison and owe millions of dollars for their alleged crimes.

The three men had a preliminary hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at the magisterial district court offices of James S. Miner in West Manheim Township. The three men went into the hearing room shortly before that time and then were taken out a back door by federal law enforcement.

Christopher Heath

The three men had faced felony drug charges on the local level, but Miner's office said all local charges against the deputies have been withdrawn. That's common when federal charges later are filed for the same alleged crimes.

The drug-dealing crimes alleged in the federal indictment carry heavier penalties than the local charges; the indictment also includes allegations of money laundering, the mailing of weed and the involvement of Ramona Long, who was a manager at a post office.

The indictment alleges the first sign of the conspiracy between the four Oroville, California, residents came on Sept. 11, 2015, when they mailed 3.44 pounds of weed from the Oroville post office where Ramona Long worked to a York County address.

The indictment alleged she used her job as a post office supervisor to make sure authorities didn't find the drug shipments.

Two weeks later, they received payment in the mail from a Mountville, Lancaster County, post office to a P.O. box in Bangor, California, according to the indictment. So that day, they sent another 4.56 pounds of pot to a York County address, the indictment states.Three days later, the Bangor P.O. box received another payment mailed from Mountville, the indictment states.

Transactions continued in this vein for the next three months, documents state, with about 130 pounds of weed sent from that Oroville post office to addresses and post offices in York City, New Salem, Hanover and Mountville, and $500,000 in payments sent back from post offices in the area.

The last drugs were sent out Dec. 10, and the last payment six days later, the indictment says.

Then, on Dec. 27, the indictment alleges, the three men set out from their California homes in two vehicles carrying 200 pounds of what York County authorities have called high-quality marijuana.

Heath, who was driving a pickup truck with the big haul of pot, had a gun and his sheriff’s deputy badge, the indictment states.

Ryan Falsone

The trio were arrested at a Frogtown Road address in West Manheim Township on Dec. 28, according to authorities.

The York County Drug Task Force seized Heath's gun plus what police said at the time was millions of dollars worth of weed, as well as more than $500,000 in cash.

Pot varieties among the seized bags included Super Skunk, Purple Kush, Black Lime, Big Red, XXX and Sour Diesel.

After the three men were charged locally, they each made $500,000 bail each after they were arrested, according to online court documents.

The Yuba County Sheriff's Office said Heath, 37, of Bangor, California, was on vacation when he was arrested. Heath, who served on a narcotics task force, was placed on paid leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation but resigned a few days after the charges were filed, according to Undersheriff Jerry Read.

Tyler Long

Mike Fenton, the lawyer who's representing Heath, declined to comment on his client's behalf. Neither Daniel Pell, who's Tyler Long's lawyer, nor Shane Kope, who's the 26-year-old Falsone's attorney, wished to comment for their clients, either, outside Miner’s offices.

All four defendants were indicted on charges of conspiracy to sell more than 100 kilograms of drugs and conspiracy to commit money laundering. That first charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, and a max of 40, while the second carries 20 years and a large fine.

Tyler Long, 31, is charged with 15 counts of selling drugs, one for each of the times the indictment alleges he mailed weed to central Pennsylvania. His mother, 56, is also indicted on eight of those same charges. Each of those charges carries up to 10 years behind bars.

Additionally, all three men were indicted on another drug-dealing charge for allegedly driving pot to York County.

Heath is indicted on one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. A conviction for that adds five years to any sentence.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.