Yuba County deputy on leave after being jailed in Pennsylvania
Former Yuba County sheriff’s Deputy Christopher M. Heath
Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2015 11:31 am
A Yuba-Sutter drug task force agent is suspected of illegally transporting 200 pounds of marijuana while on vacation in Pennsylvania.
Officials said Yuba County sheriff’s Deputy Christopher “Mark” Heath, 37, was arrested Monday by the York County Multijurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit in York, Pa., on suspicion of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance.
He was booked into jail in York County and released Tuesday night after posting a $1 million bail. York County sheriff’s Lt. Gregory Ickler said Heath contacted a bail bondsman Tuesday and likely paid a bond of between 5 and 10 percent. There was no inquiry into where the funds came from, he said.
Heath is a Yuba County sheriff’s deputy who has been assigned to NET-5, the bi-county drug and gang task force, for three years. He wrote search warrants, investigated drug crimes and served as a witness in marijuana-trafficking cases.
He was placed on administrative leave and will receive his salary pending the results of an administrative investigation, which is usually completed before a criminal case, according to Undersheriff Jerry Read. Last year, Heath’s total pay and benefits were $122,179, according to Transparent California.
Local agencies learned of the investigation into Heath after his arrest on Monday night, Read and NET-5 Commander Martin Horan said Wednesday morning.
They said they assume the marijuana was transported from Northern California to Pennsylvania, the amount of marijuana was around 200 pounds and Pennsylvania police busted Heath in an undercover operation.
The investigation into Heath’s Butte County residence and business interests is ongoing, Horan said. There are no signs Heath obtained the marijuana from evidence seized by NET-5, or any other agents are involved in a marijuana conspiracy, Horan said.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Department served search warrants at Heath’s residence in the last couple of days.
Earlier this year, Heath traveled to Waco, Texas, to testify in a federal case against Phillip Larry Koss, accused of participating in a family-run marijuana trafficking ring.
NET-5 officials aided Texas investigators when they found 150 pounds of high-grade marijuana in the Yuba County foothills. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office that prosecuted the case said they could not comment on whether Heath’s arrest might impact their case against Koss, which is currently being appealed.
A Waco newspaper reported Heath said he started his investigation of the Koss brothers in October 2010 after a chance encounter with Chad Koss. He testified Koss bought a property in the foothills and watched as his marijuana grow increased each year.
Heath said medical marijuana laws in California are gray and vague, and that most police officers don’t understand them, the newspaper reported.
Medical marijuana is “a hot topic right now” in Pennsylvania, but currently marijuana is not legal in the state, said Kyle King, a spokesman for the York County District Attorney’s Office, which oversees the drug unit that investigated and arrested Heath.
King said he could not comment on an open investigation and did not provide details about Heath’s arrest.
Cases Heath worked will be reviewed
The Yuba County District Attorney’s Office will review 62 cases in which a drug agent who was arrested was the lead investigator, officials said.
Drug task force Commander Martin Horan said Christopher “Mark” Heath initiated dozens of cases in his three years with NET-5. Several of those were large marijuana-related cases.
Prosecutors will individually evaluate each case to assess their viability with the assumption that Heath is no longer available as a witness, said District Attorney Patrick McGrath. Closed cases will also be reviewed and defense attorneys will be informed of whether a plea can be withdrawn.
While officers have been arrested before, as a NET-5 agent Heath was more involved in investigations, and the cases he worked on required heavy emphasis on search warrants.
Aside from triggering “an awful lot of work,” McGrath said Heath’s arrest prompted a feeling of “real deep disappointment.
Monica Vaughn, Dec 30, 2015, appeal-democrat.com”, “Drug task force agent suspected of illegally transporting 200 pounds of pot”, http://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/yuba-county-deputy-arrested-in-pennsylvania-for-marijuana-delivery/article_ddb93030-af2b-11e5-9d15-c7348145fa1f.html?platform=hootsuite