Pubdate: Thu, 31 Dec 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Monica Vaughan
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


Yuba County Deputy on Leave After Being Jailed in Pennsylvania

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 $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 that 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 the case 
against Koss, which is 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.
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