The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

May 13, 2012

Family operation: Details of alleged drug ring emerge

— Just like any gardener, George M. “Beaver” Lowmaster fussed over his plants, worrying about an insect problem that could ruin them and which insecticide might save them.

But his cash crop wasn’t corn, tomatoes or beans.

Federal authorities allege that Lowmaster, a Carrolltown resident, had up to 2,000 marijuana plants growing in several locations for his booming trade in “pot” sales through a distribution ring based in northern Cambria County.

It wasn’t only the local crop that Lowmaster allegedly used in his

lucrative illegal drug distribution network.

He allegedly mailed tens of thousands of dollars in cash to the West Coast to import large quantities of marijuana to Pennsylvania.

And the Lowmaster drug ring allegedly also sold cocaine and oxycodone and methadone pills, authorities say.

Although the arrest of Lowmaster and nearly two dozen suspects took place a year ago this month, the focus again is on the alleged multi-milliondollar ring. Many of the defendants are entering guilty pleas in federal court in Johnstown.

More details of the operation are emerging both in court records and in evidence summaries given by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Valkovci during the plea hearings.

More are to come, apparently, because the federal authorities also have alleged that there is a Canadian connection, but details of it have not been disclosed. Lowmaster is scheduled for trial on Nov. 5 at federal court in Johnstown.

Family operation

Valkovci has described the ring as a large-scale complex scheme that allegedly included members of Lowmaster’s family – his parents,  Gerald “Jerry” and Marguerite “Dolly” Lowmaster, and his uncle, Rodney Lowmaster, all of Carrolltown.

It’s alleged that some of the drug-trade proceeds were used for renovations of Jerry’s Tavern, owned by Lowmaster’s parents.

Sometimes, people who brought drugs dropped off money for Lowmaster to either of his parents at the bar, it’s alleged. The parents also allowed their residence to be used by their son as a location where he both stored and sold the controlled substances, according to the federal grand jury indictment.

Rodney Lowmaster also permitted George Lowmaster to stash some drugs at his property and even had an indoor marijuana-growing operation there, the grand jury said.

The uncle also would accompany George Lowmaster in making weekly rounds to collect proceeds of the drug sales from his primary distributors, it’s alleged.

The cases against Lowmaster’s parents and uncle are pending in federal court.

Cash from drug sales

So much money was flowing in, that Lowmaster allegedly had help in laundering the money that came in small denominations of $5s, $10s and $20s from the “street” sales into $100 bills.

Timothy Golby, owner of Mr. Pizza Shop, and Robert Paterno, owner of the City Hotel, both in Northern Cambria, are accused of taking the small bills – as much as $9,000 at a time, to area banks to convert them to $100 bills.

Golby already has pleaded guilty, while the case against Paterno still is pending.

Lowmaster, it has been disclosed, stashed hundreds of thousands of dollars at the residence of Paxton Clark of Carrolltown, a cousin of Lowmaster’s by marriage. Authorities seized $440,000 last May from a safe in Clark’s house.

Up to $40,000 at a time of the $100 bills were mailed to Brian Knee, a former northern Cambria County resident, in Eugene, Ore. Knee, who has pleaded guilty in federal court, would mail back packages of marijuana to associates of Lowmaster.

Agents determined that from

March 2009 to March 2011, 45 packages of money were mailed to Knee, who then would ship back the marijuana in packages containing about

11 pounds each. Authorities estimated that $1.8 million in cash was mailed to Oregon during that time.

Lowmaster was heard on a wiretap calling his mother to ask her to drive Christopher Jolly of Patton to the post office “like she does once every month” to mail packages to Knee. Jolly has pleaded guilty.

Codes used

Agents also learned through wiretaps and surveillance that Lowmaster and those in the ring used code words to disguise what they were discussing.

A “zip” referred to an ounce, a “QP” or “quap” was a quarter pound and a “bow” or “elbow” signified one pound.

“Skittles” referred to prescription drugs while “green” was marijuana.

In a conversation with an informant, Lowmaster referred to “oxys” and roxys” – both for oxycodone pain-

killers. In the Aug. 21, 2010, conversation, Lowmaster told the informant, “I got to quit my job, ’cause between growing (marijuana) and this (pills sales), it’s taking up too much of my time.”

He allegedly said in reference to

the plants, that the “kids got lice” as he considered what insecticide he and

the other growers should use on the plants.

Fear in the community

An agent said in a probable cause affidavit for search warrants that both Lowmaster and his family are well known in Carrolltown, which has fewer than 1,000 residents, and throughout the area.

“Through this investigation, I have learned that citizens of Carrolltown are afraid to speak out against Lowmaster and his family for fear of retaliation

– even though it was common knowledge that Lowmaster is involved in the widespread distribution of illegal controlled substances,” the agent said.

The probe took years and involved federal, state, county and local law-enforcement agencies.

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