The alleged ringleader of what police said was a multi-million dollar drug ring in Cambria County has pleaded guilty to four counts in federal court.
George M. Lowmaster, known as "Beaver," of 106 Himmel St., Carrolltown, faces 20 years to life behind bars after pleading guilty to marijuana, cocaine and money laundering charges before U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson in Johnstown, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced Friday. Hickton said in a statement that Lowmaster "led the largest and most extensive drug distribution organization ever dismantled in the Johnstown area.
"Mr. Lowmaster's plea brings to completion what has been a comprehensive and lengthy prosecution," Hickton said. "Twenty-five other individuals have also pleaded guilty for their participation in Mr. Lowmaster's organization."
Lowmaster's home in Carrolltown was described as a "drug compound" by investigators after Lowmaster and more than a dozen others were arrested May 9, 2011, by the Cambria County Drug Task Force.
An 11-count federal indictment soon followed against Lowmaster that alleged he, along with family members, ran a far-reaching operation that sold a wide variety of drugs, particularly cocaine and marijuana. The investigation into the Lowmaster drug ring spanned some 15 Pennsylvania counties and reached into Ohio, Oregon and California.
Lowmaster's father and mother, Gerald "Jerry" Lowmaster, 67, and Marguerite G. "Dolly" Lowmaster, 66, both of Carrolltown, pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count each in federal court.
Lowmaster's uncle, Rodney Lowmaster, 57, also of Carrolltown, who was accused of running a large marijuana growing operation that fed the family drug business, pleaded guilty in federal court in June 2012.
Investigators contend the Lowmaster drug ring sold close to $3 million worth of drugs between 2008 and 2011, with George Lowmaster using illicit profits to buy vehicles, a motor home and property and attempted to hide the illegal income.
Lowmaster was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 28 and is the last of the 26 people implicated in the organization to make a deal with federal prosecutors.
Hickton commended the efforts of the various local, state and federal agencies who worked together to build the case against Lowmaster and his associates and pledged to devote all available resources to tackle the problems facing Johnstown.
The joint task force that investigated the Lowmaster ring was headed by the FBI in Johnstown with help from the Internal Revenue Service, Pennsylvania State Police, the state Attorney General's Office, the Cambria County District Attorney's Office and local police in Carrolltown, Patton, Ebensburg, Portage and Paint Township, Hickton noted.
George Lowmaster is scheduled to appear before Judge Gibson again Feb. 19 for sentencing. He faces 20 years to life in prison and a fine of upward of $24.5 million. Lowmaster's attorney, Sally Frick, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the plea deal.