An investigation involving several law enforcement agencies ended in police seizing nearly 250 pounds of marijuana from three men, including a California sheriff’s deputy, last week, York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said Monday.
Police laid out dozens of bags of marijuana, fanned-out $100 and $20 bills, a handgun and other items during a news conference Monday at the Penn Township municipal offices. The evidence was seized during the West Manheim Township drug bust.
Kearney commended the York County Drug Task Force and Penn Township, Springettsbury Township, Hanover Borough and York Area Regional police departments for working together on the investigation that resulted in the arrest of the California deputy and two other men.
The drug bust occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 29 when police conducted a traffic stop, Kearney said. The three men had allegedly tried to deliver marijuana to a person in the 100 block of Frogtown Road, according to an affidavit filed with District Judge James Miner.
Police found Christopher Mark Heath, 37; Tyler Neil Long, 31 and Ryan Jay Falsone, 27, all of Bangor, California, inside a vehicle with about 122 sealed bags of marijuana and $11,000 in cash, Kearney said.
All three men peacefully surrendered to police, Kearney said. Following his arrest, Heath admitted to being a sheriff’s deputy in Yuba County, California.
Police did not know prior to the arrest that Heath worked in law enforcement. He had his badge with him in the vehicle, and police seized his duty firearm, Kearney said.
”One has to be both saddened and angry when you hear of something like this,” Kearney said. “The work that is done by the task force and police officers in general is very dangerous work, and it is made more dangerous by the fact that occasionally there is a bad apple in the barrel.”
Hanover Borough Police Chief Chad Martin was also disappointed that a fellow law enforcement official would “sell out all their brothers and sisters for a quick buck.”
Kearney said the traffic stop was part of a coordinated effort, planned by the drug task force and the assisting police departments.
“Suffice it to say this was not a routine traffic stop,” Kearney said. “We didn’t stop this person because they had a bad turn signal.”
Both Long and Heath admitted to driving the marijuana from California to Pennsylvania, the affidavit states. The street value of the marijuana is more than $2 million, Kearney said.
Police also took a shirt bearing an image of a pit bull with the phrase “Triple Cross Pitbulls” from one of the men, Kearney said. Police did not elaborate on its meaning beyond saying in California, it is a reference to pit bulls.
Kearney would not comment on exactly how long police had been working on the investigation, why the men came specifically to Pennsylvania or if it was their first time in York County, citing the ongoing investigation. He also declined to comment on how police received the tip that led to the bust.
He deferred comment regarding the source of the marijuana to Yuba County authorities. who are “conducting a parallel and ongoing investigation,” Kearney said.
The marijuana will be destroyed in an incinerator, Kearney said.
Police charged each of the men with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and criminal conspiracy, according to York County District Court records. All of the charges are felonies.
The three men posted $1 million bail through a Maryland bondsman Dec. 29.
The three men are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Feb. 11 before District Judge James Miner. No other arrests have been made in connection with the investigation. Kearney is not aware of any related charges filed by Yuba County authorities.
“This is obviously a big operation,” he said.
The Appeal Democrat in Marysville, California, reported last week that Heath was on vacation when he was taken into custody in York County.
In California, where Heath has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the charges against him, he was a member of a bi-county drug and gang task force, according to a story by the Appeal Democrat.
Authorities told the Appeal Democrat that they did not believe the marijuana to be part of any evidence seized in investigations by the Yuba County drug task force.
Earlier this year, Heath traveled to Waco, Texas, to testify in a federal case against a man accused of participating in a family-run marijuana trafficking ring, according to the Appeal Democrat. A Waco newspaper reported Heath said he started his investigation into the family in October 2010 after a chance encounter with a family member. Heath testified one of the family members bought a property in the Yuba County foothills and grew marijuana there.
Yuba County officials told the Appeal Democrat that the district attorney’s office there will review cases in which Heath was involved.
Aside from triggering “an awful lot of work,” Yuba County District Attorney Patrick McGrath said Heath’s arrest prompted a feeling of “real deep disappointment.”
This article originally appeared at The Evening Sun.
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