A California sheriff's deputy who worked in a narcotics task force was caught up in a $2 million pot bust, and now prosecutors in California are scrambling to review drug cases he worked.
Christopher M. Heath, 37, was one of three men allegedly transporting 122 packages of marijuana to Pennsylvania when investigators in Pennsylvania's York County, who had been tracking Heath's vehicle, stopped the men around midnight on Dec. 28, the New York Times reported. The bust was the result of a planned investigation, and wasn't a random traffic stop that yielded drugs, but authorities said they did not realize Heath was a fellow law enforcement officer until they moved in for the arrest.
They found Heath's duty weapon and badge from the Yuba Sheriff's Office in California, and said Heath surrendered without incident after admitting he was a police officer.
Heath was on vacation from his job as a sheriff's deputy when he made the cross-country drug run, California's Appeal-Democrat reported, and has been put on administrative leave with pay while his criminal case plays out.
Tom Kearney, the York County district attorney, said investigators were surprised when the realized Heath was a cop.
“One has to be both saddened and angry when you hear of something like this,” Kearney said during a press conference in which he announced the arrests. “The work that is done by the task force and police officers in general is very dangerous work, and it is made more dangerous by the fact that occasionally there is a bad apple in the barrel.”
Heath and his alleged accomplices, Tyler Neil Long, 31, and Ryan Jay Falsone, 27, each face two counts of felony possession with intent to deliver drugs, and one count of felony conspiracy, the Appeal-Democrat reported. All three men posted $1 million bail with the help of a bondsman. The men are scheduled for a federal court hearing on Feb. 11.
Heath was the lead officer in at least 62 drug cases while he was assigned to NET-5, a Yuba County drug task force. NET-5 Commander Martin Horan told the Appeal-Democrat that "many" of those cases involved marijuana, but he didn't specify the exact number.
Patrick McGrath, Yuba County's district attorney, told The New York Times in an email that his office is reviewing Heath's cases.
“If Heath’s work was witnessed or can be otherwise credibly covered by the testimony of another investigator, the case may not be significantly impacted,” McGrath wrote. “In other situations, the case may be tainted to such a degree that we cannot proceed and the case will be dismissed.”