A case against a former Yuba County sheriff's deputy and two other Butte County men accused of driving $2 million worth of marijuana into Pennsylvania has been taken over by federal law enforcement, according to the three men's lawyers.
Former Yuba County Deputy Christopher Mark Heath, Tyler N. Long and Ryan J. Falsone had a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday at the magisterial district court offices of James S. Minor in York County, Pa. The three men went into the hearing room shortly before that time, and then were taken out a back door by federal law enforcement.
Daniel Pell, who represents Long, said a sealed federal indictment has come down against his client and the other two men. He said they were to have a federal court appearance in Harrisburg, Pa., later today.
Dawn Mayko, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, couldn't comment on the existence of charges or a court date for the three men. She said her office will release more information if an indictment is unsealed.
Minor's office said all local charges against the deputies have been withdrawn.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.
Minor's office deferred all further comment to the York County District Attorney's Office.
Kyle King, spokesman for the DA, said his office wouldn't comment on a case that was now under the purview of the federal government.
Heath, 37, of Bangor; Long, 31, of Bangor; and Falsone, 27, of Oroville, had been charged in York County with two counts of marijuana possession with intent to deliver and one count of criminal conspiracy. All those offenses were felonies.
Police alleged Heath, armed with his work-issued handgun, drove across the country with the other two men and 247 pounds of high-quality marijuana, before being arrested at a Frogtown Road home in West Manheim Township on Dec. 29.
Law enforcement seized Heath's gun plus the millions of dollars worth of weed, according to police at the time.
Pot varieties among the seized bags included Super Skunk, Purple Kush, Black Lime, Big Red, XXX and Sour Diesel.
The Yuba County Sheriff's Office said Heath was on vacation when he was arrested. Heath was placed on paid leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, according to the department. He has since resigned.
The York County Drug Task Force spearheaded the investigation.
The three all made $500,000 bail each after they were arrested, according to online court documents.
Mike Fenton, the lawyer who's representing Heath, declined to comment on his client's behalf; neither Pell, who's Long's lawyer, nor Shane Kope, who's Falsone's attorney, wished to comment for their of their clients, either.