HARRISBURG- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Christopher Mark Heath, 38, a former deputy sheriff of the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office, California, was convicted of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, conspiracy to manufacture and distribute 100 kilograms of
marijuana, conspiracy to launder drug proceeds and an additional drug trafficking count after a two-day jury trial in Harrisburg before U.S. District Court Judge Yvette Kane. Heath engaged in a conspiracy that trafficked hundreds of pounds of marijuana between Northern California, Florida and York County, Pennsylvania.
According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty after less than two hours of deliberation. Following the entry of the verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Yvette Kane remanded Heath to the custody of the U.S. Marshals, at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Heath and his co-defendants, who previously pleaded guilty, 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 but has since resigned. Heath and his co-defendants grew marijuana on property in Oroville, CA, and shipped it through the United States Postal Service to several locations, including post office boxes in York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as well as to a home address in the Hanover area. Money to purchase additional marijuana was mailed from the York County, PA area to Bangor, California.
In December 2015, Heath and his co-conspirators traveled from California to York County in two vehicles, transporting 89.5 kilograms of marijuana worth just under half a million dollars. Heath’s truck contained the entire quantity of marijuana as well as a loaded Glock firearm and his deputy sheriff’s badge. When Heath and his co-conspirators arrived to deliver the marijuana in York County, they were arrested by the York County Drug Task Force and Penn Township Police Department.
Heath has additional firearms charges pending in Butte County, California.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, the York County Drug Task Force, Penn Township Police Department, the Butte County Sheriff’s Department (California), the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Meredith A. Taylor and Joseph J. Terz are prosecuting the case.
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 the offense of possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking is life imprisonment and includes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment, which must be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed. 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 and carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit money laundering is 20 years’ imprisonment. The count of manufacture, distribution and possession with intent to manufacture and distribute marijuana carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
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.
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