Mar 24, 2016 8:07 PM by David McVicker
Four Yuba County men, including one former sheriff’s deputy, suspected of transporting marijuana from the Yuba to Pennsylvania have been indicted by a federal grand jury on drug conspiracy and trafficking charges. The suspects are scheduled to make their first appearances in the Middle District Pennsylvania courthouse Friday at 1 p.m.
Christopher Mark Heath, 37; Tyler Neil Long, 32; Ryan Jay Falsone, 27 and Ramona Marcel Long, 56, all appeared in a York County courthouse. The group answered to a 19-count indictment with charges ranging from conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana to conspiracy to launder drug proceeds, according to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith.
Heath is charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
“Today’s indictment of four individuals operating an interstate drug organization is only achieved through the tireless efforts of all the agencies involved,” said Akeia Conner, special agent at the Internal Revenue Service. “The Internal Revenue Service proudly provides the financial expertise that dismantles the laundering of the drug proceeds which fuel these conspiracies.”
The feds allege that the consortium were involved in transporting marijuana from September 2014 to January 2016. At the time, Heath was previously employed by the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department as a narcotics investigator. He has since resigned.
Drug Enforcement Agents said that Heath, Long and Falsone were suspected of driving marijuana bales in two separate vehicles. Falsone and Long allegedly drove a decoy vehicle while Heath transported the drugs. Drug agents also said they believe Heath was armed with a Glock handgun and his Sheriff’s deputy credentials throughout the transportation. This weapon has been suspected to be Heath’s service weapon.
The indictment also alleges that the group grew marijuana at a grow operation on a property in Oroville. The group also transported the produced marijuana through U.S. Mail to several locations in Pennsylvania. Currency was then sent through the mail to a post office box in Bangor.
The indictment alleges that Heath’s mother-in-law, Ramona Long, used her position as supervisor at the Yuba County post office branch to send and receive elicit packages for the group. Approximately 200 pounds of marijuana and $500,000 in drug proceeds were shipped between Yuba and York.
“Postal Inspectors worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners in law enforcement on this investigation and will continue to vigorously protect the U.S. Mail against all forms of criminal misuse,” said San Francisco Division Inspector Rafael Nunez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who was involved with the investigation.
If convicted, according to U.S. Attorney’s office, the suspects face a maximum penalty of 40 years’ imprisonment, lifetime supervised release, and a $2,000,000 fine. The offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.
Maximum penalty if convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering is a 20 year prison sentence, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds.
Each count of manufacture, distribution and possession with intent to manufacture and distribute carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, a $1,000,000 fine, and lifetime supervised release.
The maximum penalty for the offense of possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking is life, a three-year term of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. The mandatory minimum sentence for possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking is five years’ imprisonment to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.
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