Mother of South Lake Tahoe Olympic snowboard pro arrested in N.Y.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The mother of a South Lake Tahoe Olympic snowboarder has been accused of being part of a large-scale marijuana operation after being arrested with $77,500 cash that investigators believe she drove across the country to collect, authorities said Monday.
Myra Hight, 51, of South Lake Tahoe, was being held on $1 million bail after being charged in Buffalo with federal conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
Hight, the mother of Olympian Elena Hight, was arrested Feb. 20 in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg. Erie County Sheriff’s investigators announced the arrest Monday, saying they had not wanted to impede their investigation into the operation, which they said reached into Utah, Nevada, California and Hawaii.
“These people were probably dealing in millions of dollars of marijuana,” Senior Detective Alan Rozansky said.
Investigators have no reason to believe Elena Hight had any knowledge of the organization or was involved, the officials said. Hight competed in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics and is expected to participate in the 2014 games.
There had been no other arrests in the case as of Monday afternoon.
Myra Hight likely drove loads of marijuana in her pickup truck across the country and collected payment for it, sheriff’s officials said. Officers confiscated $77,571 in cash, a stun gun, computer, cell phones and a GPS device.
A man who answered the phone at a listing in Myra Hight’s name declined to say whether she has a lawyer. He wouldn’t identify himself but said Hight had been traveling on business for her company, MotoAdvisor Inc. A Web listing for the company lists Hight as chief executive officer and describes the business as a software company focused on making service departments more efficient.
SUNNY DHILLON, The Globe and Mail, Sep. 06 2012:
She soared to new heights in the half-pipe snowboarding event at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but it's U.S. Olympian Elena Hight's mother who's now making headlines, for allegedly helping people get high in an entirely different manner.
Myra Hight was arrested in upstate New York last week in a scene straight out of a cop drama. Police say the 51-year-old was part of a drug-trafficking ring that made millions of dollars off hundreds of pounds of marijuana. Court documents allege Myra was arrested while carrying more than $75,000 (all currency U.S.) in cash, three days after another member of the ring was taken into custody and agreed to become a police informant.
Police say there's no evidence Elena knew of, or was involved with, the drug operation. The 22-year-old has twice competed for the U.S. snowboarding team at the Winter Olympics and is again expected to do so in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
An affidavit filed in a Buffalo court says the Drug Enforcement Administration and local police began investigating the trafficking operation in March of last year. On Feb. 17, they arrested "an individual who was a member of this organization and who later provided information to the DEA as a confidential source," says the affidavit, sworn by an officer from the town of Hamburg.
The source told police a woman from Nevada would soon be arriving to deliver marijuana and pick up the payment, the affidavit says. On Feb. 20, the informant allegedly met Myra in a parking lot until officers swarmed in.
The affidavit says Myra admitted to having a small amount of marijuana with her, as well as a stun gun. Once a search warrant was obtained for her vehicle, police found tens of thousands of dollars in cash, as well as a ledger detailing money already paid and still owed for marijuana deliveries. The ledger amounts added up to more than $500,000.
Myra was charged with drug trafficking, possession of marijuana, and possession of a weapon.
Jeremy Schwartz, Myra's lawyer, played down the case against his client.
"I don't believe this case is going to turn out to be as serious as what's being made of it right now, or that her role is going to be as serious as is being discussed by police right now," he said in an interview.
Schwartz declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but added his client has never been in trouble with the law.
Myra was ordered released from custody Tuesday after making a court appearance. The judge issued a $150,000 bond, secured by $10,000 cash. Schwartz said the $10,000 was paid by her daughter. Myra must reside at her daughter's home in Lake Tahoe, Calif., and will be electronically monitored.
Elena declined comment through a spokeswoman Tuesday. She placed 10th in the half-pipe event at the Vancouver Olympics. U.S. teammates Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark won the silver and bronze medals, respectively, while Australian Torah Bright claimed gold.
Senior Detective Alan Rozansky of the Erie County Sheriff's Department said the drug trafficking ring is believed to have generated several millions of dollars and stretched along a number of states.
No other arrests have been made in the case.