Lowmaster mom enters guilty plea

JOHNSTOWN – The mother of an alleged Cambria County drug-ring mastermind entered a guilty plea Wednesday for her part in a two-year, multimillion dollar drug operation broken up by federal, state and local investigators in May 2011.

U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson accepted the change during a plea hearing for Marguerite G. “Dolly” Lowmaster, 66, Carrolltown, at the U.S. District Court in Johnstown.

Dolly is the mother of George M. Lowmaster, who police said operated a vast drug conspiracy that stretched across 15 Pennsylvania counties and into Oregon, Ohio and California, as well as Canada, and took in close to $3 million from trafficking marijuana, cocaine and prescription pills.

A total of 25 suspects were indicted as part of an investigation of the “Lowmaster Organization,” which Cambria County Drug Task Force supervisor Kevin Price called the largest in county history.

Dolly, dressed in a dark floral pantsuit with black loafers, told Gibson she understood that, as part of her plea to a lesser charge: conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute between 10 and 20 kilograms of marijuana, she waived her right to a jury trial, to appeal and to vacate her sentence. She faces a sentence of not more than five years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and two or more years of supervised release.

Originally, Dolly had faced one count of conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, for which she was facing 40 years of jail time and $5 million in fines. Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Valkovci, who is prosecuting the Lowmasters and the related cases, introduced some evidence that would have been used against Dolly had her case gone to trial.

He said prosecutors would have proven that Dolly drove another member of the ring, Christopher J. Jolly of Patton, at least four separate times to a post office for Jolly to mail shrink-wrapped packages of money to Oregon, where a marijuana distributor would pick up the money and mail back packages of “between 10 and 15 pounds of high-quality marijuana” to sell.

Valkovci also said Dolly allowed her son to use her home to facilitate drug operations.

The plea agreement included criminal forfeiture options for properties Valkovci said were paid for with drug money or used to facilitate the drug ring’s operations, excluding Dolly’s 387 N. Main St. home in Carrolltown, described as a single-wide tan trailer with green shutters.

Valkovci said because he doesn’t consider Dolly a flight risk, and because he doesn’t believe she poses a threat to the community, she can continue to be released on bond until her sentencing.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Feb. 25.

Jury selection for the trial of George M. “Beaver” Lowmaster, 43 – Dolly’s son and the alleged leader of the drug ring – and her husband, Gerald “Jerry” Lowmaster, 66, is set to begin Oct. 28.