Former Northern California narcotics deputy convicted of smuggling marijuana

A marijuana plant growing in a legal, California greenhouse.
(Los Angeles Times)

A former Yuba County sheriff’s narcotics investigator was convicted this week of smuggling 220 pounds of marijuana as part of a cross-country drug ring, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Jurors in Harrisburg, Pa., delivered the guilty verdict Wednesday in the two-day drug-trafficking and money-laundering trial of Christopher Mark Heath, who was working for the sheriff’s office when he was arrested in 2015, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. He has since resigned.

Federal authorities accused Heath and his co-conspirators of a scheme that allowed hundreds of pounds of marijuana to be shipped from California to Florida and Pennsylvania.

Heath and his co-conspirators started growing marijuana in Oroville in September 2014, according to U.S. District Court documents. From there, they worked with connections at a U.S. Postal Service office in Oroville to ship the cannabis across the country without law enforcement interference, according to court documents.


The marijuana packages were sent to post office boxes that had been rented as well as to a home in Hanover, Pa.

Heath and his co-conspirators had also rented post office boxes in Bangor, Calif., where the money to purchase more marijuana was sent as well as proceeds from drug sales, according to federal authorities.

Federal officials believe about $500,000 in drug proceeds was shipped to Oroville.

The drug operation continued for more than a year until Heath and his co-conspirators finally got caught in December 2015.

Over two days in December, Heath and two men drove in separate vehicles from California to deliver marijuana to a customer in York County in Pennsylvania, federal authorities said. Carrying a loaded Glock pistol and his deputy sheriff’s badge, Heath hauled 165 packages of cannabis in his Ford F-250 truck, according to court documents.

When Heath and his co-conspirators arrived in Pennsylvania to deliver the packages, federal authorities said, they were met by members of a law enforcement drug task force and arrested.

Heath is facing additional firearm charges in Butte County, federal authorities said.

He faces at least 40 years in prison for his drug convictions.

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