Missouri’s Camp Zoe Faces Government Seizure

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The Riverfront Times reports that Camp Zoe near Salem, Missouri is facing asset forfeiture (in short, the seizing of the land by the federal government) after a four-year investigation by the DEA, Missouri State Highway Patrol and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The complaint alleges that [owner Jimmy Tebeau] — who has not been charged with a crime — and other Camp Zoe staff members were “in the immediate area” when the drug deals went down and “took no immediate action to prevent the activity.” … the U.S. Attorney’s office alleges that Camp Zoe was “knowingly opened, rented, leased, used, or maintained for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using controlled substances.”

The formal complaint, filed on November 8th, paints a picture of a drug-taking-and-dealing wonderland.

“Pursuant to information revealed through law enforcement surveillance, undercover operations, source information, bank records, and interviews, law enforcement agents have learned of the extensive use of and sale of numberous drugs and controlled substances at Camp Zoe by attendees of the festivals held at Camp Zoe. Over the past several years, law enforcement agents have specifically observed the open sales of cocaine, marijuana, LSA (acid), ecstacy, psilocybin mushrooms, opium, and marijuana-laced food products by individuals attending the music festival and have made multiple undercover purchases of illegal drugs. Undercover purchases have been made on the defendant property as recently as September, 2010. Many of the illegal drug transactions were conducted while Camp Zoe staff members, including the owner Tebeau, were in the immediate area and took no action to prevent the activity.”

Camp Zoe, while predominantly a home for music festivals (most notably Schwagstock), started hosting Circle Sanctuary’s Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2009 after that event decided to part ways with Wisteria in Ohio. I, along with representatives from the Pagan Newswire CollectivePatheos.com and the Pagan Centered Podcast, covered PSG’s 30th Anniversary this past June. One of the largest and oldest ongoing Pagan festivals in North America, PSG presented some of very best of festival culture and Pagan community.

“For the first time the idea and experience of immersion into an intentional, albeit temporary, Pagan community fully clicked within me. This being the festival’s 30th anniversary, I was doubly blessed to be witness to many remembrances, stories, and events that showed just how much America’s Pagan festival culture has shaped modern Paganism.”

With the future of Camp Zoe increasingly uncertain, and operating under a cloud of allegations, PSG is breaking ties with Camp Zoe and is currently in the process of trying to find a new home for their festival.

“Since learning on November 9th about legal difficulties now connected with the Camp Zoe site in Missouri that we have rented for the past two years, the Pagan Spirit Gathering Executive Committee has begun a search for a new site for PSG 2011. The dates for PSG 2011 remain June 19-26.”

After speaking with several other attendees of the 2010 Pagan Spirit Gathering, and drawing from my own personal experiences at the Camp Zoe-hosted event, there have been no accounts of flagrant drug use or evidence that drugs were being sold on the property during PSG. It’s sad that a wonderful event, held on beautiful land, and hosted, by all accounts I’ve encountered, nice and generous people, is being forced to shift gears in an economy that leaves little breathing room for upheavals of this nature. I’ll keep you posted as Circle’s search for a new home for PSG progresses. As for Camp Zoe, there has been no official statement made about the complaint, though they have hired legal representation, and will no doubt try to fight the seizing of their land.