A deputy sheriff who works on a narcotics squad in Northern California was arrested in late December and accused of driving $2 million worth of marijuana from his state to Pennsylvania.
Deputy Christopher M. Heath was busted in West Manheim Township, Pa., along with another man, Tyler Long. The two allegedly drove cross-country with more than 120 packages of cannabis for a third person living in the township.
A tip led officers in that community to stop Heath’s car shortly after Christmas. They arrested Heath and Long, as well as a third man, Ryan J. Falsone, who was allegedly driving a second car involved in the incident.
Officers found marijuana and cash
Officers found marijuana, $11,000 in cash, and Heath’s duty gun and badge, said the chief deputy prosecutor for York County, Pa., David Sunday. The cannabis weighed 240 pounds and was valued at more than $2 million. Prior to the traffic stop, police didn’t know Heath was a deputy sheriff, authorities said.
York County District Attorney Tom Kearney announced the charges, which include felony drug counts, Jan. 4, a week after the bust. The three men posted bail of $1 million each.
“One has to be both saddened and angry when you hear of something like this,” Kearney told local reporters. “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.”
The arrests have led officials in Northern California to review drug cases in Yuba and Sutter counties. The inquiry is focused on cases involving Heath.
Marijuana issues have drawn intense public input in Yuba County, where county supervisors passed restrictions on cannabis grows early last year despite protests by activists who support increased access to medical marijuana. Yuba County is located north of Sacramento.
Heath on anti-drug task force
Heath, who works for the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department, was appoited to NET-5, a task force that focuses on use, possession, manufacturing, and sale of illicit drugs in Yuba and Sutter counties. He joined the group three years ago, where he investigated crimes and testified in court. According to officials on the task force, Heath led at least 62 cases, including many marijuana investigations.
The review will cover each of those cases, as well as any others in which Heath took part for his department. As of yet there has been no public evidence cases were tainted.
“If Heath’s work was witnessed or can be otherwise credibly covered by the testimony of another investigator, the case may not be significantly impacted,” said Yuba County District Attorney Patrick McGrath. “In other situations, the case may be tainted to such a degree that we cannot proceed and the case will be dismissed.”
Heath was reportedly placed on paid leave by his department during the internal investigation.