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No More ‘Mr. Nice Guy’
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Writer
2014-09-24
Montco DA's Office says 22 arrested in major marijuana pipeline from California to Pennsylvania 
 

        An Upper Hanover man, whom authorities said has been involved in distributing drugs across state lines for close to three decades, has been charged for his part in an alleged major marijuana ring that spanned from California to Pennsylvania.  

        Authorities said the ring was involved in the sales of high-grade marijuana, which commanded up to $5,000 per pound.  The marijuana, grown in California, was allegedly transported to Pennsylvania in a privately-owned recreational vehicle (RV) and then distributed across seven counties in the state. 

        The organization allegedly sold at least four varieties called "Mr. Nice Guy," "Flo," "Scatter Brain" and "Grape Ape."

        Authorities identified Jason Lee Marks, 43, of the 2900 block of Kutztown Road, Upper Hanover Township, as the central figure of the East Coast portion of that operation.  Marks was formally arraigned yesterday on multiple felony charges including corrupt organizations, manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, conspiracy, dealing in the proceeds of an unlawful activity and related offenses, according to court records.

        Marks was remanded to Montgomery County jail on June 9 after Judge Catherine Hummel Fried of Red Hill District Court set his bail at $500,000 cash at a preliminary arraignment.

        According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Montgomery County Detectives, Marks, a former standout wrestler at Upper Perkiomen High School who served as a volunteer coach with the Upper Perk Braves youth wrestling club, was investigated by the narcotics enforcement teams of the District Attorney's Offices of Montgomery and Berks counties, Upper Perk Police, PA State Police and the California Mountain and Valley Investigative Team starting back in 2010.

        That investigation also targeted his alleged co-conspirators, identified as Larry F. Kline, 42, of McKinleyville, CA, Michael A. Lynch, 45, of Boyertown, Ruben Morales, 47, of Philadelphia and Gregory P. Gaudreau, 36, of East Greenville.  In total, 22 people were arrested and charged with drug offenses in the operation.

        Court documents state that Marks communicated and met directly with upper echelon members of the organization, was responsible for selling marijuana to customers including sub-dealers, and was responsible for collecting money for the organization from the drug sales.

        Authorities allege Larry Kline, an Upper Perkiomen High School alumnus who relocated to Humboldt County, California, "took advantage of the liberal marijuana growing laws of California" and supplied Marks and Lynch, another high-ranking member of the organization, among others, with the drugs.  Those drugs were distributed to locations including Upper Hanover, East Greenville, Barto, Pennsburg (Montgomery) Boyertown, Blandon, Emmaus (Berks), North Philadelphia (Philadelphia), Orefield (Lehigh), Bethlehem (Northampton), Weatherly (Carbon) and Perkasie (Bucks), officials said.

        Law enforcement allegedly got a break in the case when Marks reported a home invasion robbery at his home in Upper Hanover this spring.  According to reports, in the early morning hours of May 1, 2013, Marks said he came home and was approached by two armed gunmen in ski masks who demanded his money and guns.  State police said Marks was reportedly pistol whipped and tied up with zip ties and left in his basement.  Marks told police the men took nine guns and $3,200 in cash.  They fled the scene in his gray 2006 Ford F-150.

        Police said before the robbers fled, Marks pleaded with them to call his brother, Anthony, because he was worried he wouldn't be found for days.  The robbers reportedly obliged, using Marks' cell phone in his truck to notify his brother he needed help.

        Authorities, to date, have not charged anyone in that robbery.

        According to court records, the amount of money stolen from Marks' home in that robbery was a lot more substantial – approximately $500,000 – which prompted several phone calls to Larry Kline in California.  Authorities said they later found evidence that some members of the organization, if not all, voluntarily submitted to lie detector tests given by a private company to rule out their involvement in the robbery.

        During the course of the investigation, which included the use of wiretapping, visual surveillance, controlled drug buys and confidential informants, authorities said they determined Lynch was responsible for moving more than $1 million of marijuana, much of it using a 2006 RV registered to him.

        Court documents state Morales and Gaudreau were both responsible for trafficking large amounts of marijuana in Pennsylvania.

        On March 31 and April 1, 2014, law enforcement executed search warrants, many of them simultaneously, at properties involved in the investigation.  Authorities reportedly found Green Everest duffle bags at a property associated with Marks, Morales and Gaudreau.  Officials said they found a corresponding receipt for the purchase of those duffle bags at Kline's home in California when at search warrant was executed there.  

        At Marks' Upper Hanover home, authorities said they seized 15 guns ranging from handguns to assault rifles, 13 cell phones, more than 10 pounds of suspected marijuana and an unidentified white powdery substance, ammunition, a scale and packaging equipment, night vision goggles and a ledger, among other items.

        They also searched his 1995 Mercedes Benz at the location, where they reportedly found $270,140 in cash, another cell phone and packaging materials.

        A subsequent search in the 200 block Lone Pine Road in Douglass Township (Montco), reportedly belonging to his Marks' mother and grandmother, turned up 65 bags of marijuana (totaling more than 10 pounds), $149,400 in cash and a handgun.

        At Lynch's property in the first block of Hickory Lane in Boyertown, authorities said they found more than $40,000 in cash, including $30,000 located inside the stove of his RV, which was wrapped in aluminum foil and contained unidentified masking agents.  They also seized a 2003 BMW M-3, a 2004 Ford F-50, $450 in counterfeit $10 bills, multiple bags with bulk quantities of marijuana, several guns and cell phones, ammunition, night vision goggles, suspected hashish and mushrooms and a scale and packaging equipment, among other items.

        Authorities also seized $22,615.50 in cash paid to Stolzfus RVs in West Chester, where Lynch bought his RV.

At Gaudreau's home in the 400 block of Washington Street, East Greenville, police said they found paperwork containing drug transactions, several jars, bags and envelopes containing more than two pounds suspected marijuana, suspected hashish and bank records.

        Two locations associated with Morales, one in the 2000 block of Carlisle Street and one in the 1500 block of Fontain Street, both in Philadelphia, turned up 23 pounds of marijuana, 38 empty pound-size marijuana bags, more than $18,000 in cash and checks made out to Morales, various controlled substances, scales and packaging equipment and multiple IDs, according to court documents.

        Marks, Lynch, Morales and Gaudreau were all scheduled for a formal arraignment yesterday in Montgomery County Court.  The results of those proceedings were not available as of press time. 

        Lynch was also charged with multiple felony charges including corrupt organizations, manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, conspiracy, dealing in the proceeds of an unlawful activity and related offenses, according to court records.

        He was out on $300,000 unsecured bail, according to court officials.

        Morales and Gaudreau, who were also charged with the same felony offenses, were out on $300,000 and $100,000 unsecured bail, respectively, court records state.    

        According to court records, Larry Kline was arrested and charged in Pennsylvania with the same felony offenses as Marks, Lynch, Morales and Gaudreau.  His bail was set at $1 million cash on June 23 by Judge Catherine Hummel Fried of Red Hill District Court.  Kline, court officials said, posted bail July 2. 

        He is scheduled to appear in Red Hill court Oct. 29 at 11 a.m. for a preliminary hearing.

        Officials from the Montgomery County DA's office said, to their knowledge, Kline has not been charged in California.    

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Jason Whalley, who is prosecuting the case, said he will be seeking state prison time for Marks and others involved in the operation.

        He praised the collective efforts of the agencies involved in the arrests.

        "These arrests are the result of hard work by many different law enforcement agencies. Mr. Marks and his associates were part of a drug trafficking operation spanning across the country from California to the northeast," he said.  "Thanks to the efforts of all involved, their illegal enterprise has been shut down for good."

        More on this story will appear in next week's edition of the Town and Country as we obtain additional court records in this case.


 

 

 

 

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