3/24/16 A former postal worker, former deputy sheriff and two others have been indicted in what federal prosecutors say was a $500,000 drug-trafficking operation that shipped about 200 pounds of marijuana through the mail between Northern California and York County, Pennsylvania.
According to United States Attorney Yuba County, California Deputy Sheriff Christopher Mark Heath, 37; Tyler Neil Long, 32; Ryan Jay Falsone, 27; and Ramona Marcel Long, 56, all of whom reside in the Oroville, California area, were charged in a 19-count indictment with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to launder drug proceeds. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy involved 100 kilograms and more of marijuana. The indictment also charges one or more defendants with delivering marijuana on specific days. Heath is charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
The indictment alleges that the four defendants participated in a conspiracy that began in approximately September 2014 and continued to January 7, 2016. During this time, Heath was a deputy sheriff in Yuba County, California, assigned as a narcotics investigator. Heath has since resigned. Ramona Long was a Lead Service and Sales Associate working in the U.S. Post Office in Oroville. The defendants allegedly grew marijuana on property in Oroville, and shipped it mainly through the United States Postal Service to several locations, including post office boxes in York New Salem and Mountville, Pennsylvania, as well as to a home address in the Hanover area. Money to purchase additional marijuana was mailed from locations in and around York County to a post office box in Bangor, California.
Ramona Long, the mother of Tyler Neil Long and the mother-in-law of Christopher Mark Heath, is alleged to have used her position as a supervisor in the post office to allow packages of marijuana and drug proceeds to be shipped to and from the post office. Approximately 200 pounds of marijuana and $500,000 in drug proceeds were shipped between California and Pennsylvania in this fashion.
According to the Indictment, the conspirators also allegedly transported marijuana by motor vehicle from California to several locations, including York County. Beginning on approximately December 27, 2015, Heath, Long, and Falsone traveled from California to York County in two vehicles. Heath’s vehicle contained a quantity of marijuana. Heath also traveled with a loaded Glock firearm that he was authorized to carry in connection with his position as a deputy sheriff and a deputy sheriff’s badge. Heath, Long, and Falsone were arrested by the York County Drug Task Force and Penn Township, York County, Police.
Akeia Conner, Internal Revenue Service, Special Agent in Charge, said “Today’s indictment of four individuals operating an interstate drug organization is only achieved through the tireless efforts of all the agencies involved. The Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation proudly provides the financial expertise that dismantles the laundering of the drug proceeds which fuel these conspiracies.”
San Francisco Division Inspector in Charge Rafael Nunez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated, “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.”
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, the York County Drug Task Force, Penn Township Police, the Butte County, California Sheriff’s Department, the United States Postal Inspection Service and United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California also provided assistance and cooperated with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy H. Fawcett has been assigned to prosecute the case.
Indictments are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to manufacture and distribute 100 kilograms and more of marijuana is 40 years’ imprisonment, lifetime supervised release, and a $2,000,000 fine. The offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty upon conviction of conspiracy to commit money laundering is 20years’ imprisonment, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds, whichever is greater, and three years’ supervised release. Each count of manufacture, distribution and possession with intent to manufacture and distribute carries a maximum term of imprisonment 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.
Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicate of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.