Tebeau envisioned the perfect venue for Schwagstock: beaches, caves, swimming holes and a secluded place to party.

"I never really wanted to be a campground owner," he says in hindsight. "I just wanted to be a musician. But I thought, 'Hey, I'll put my name on the mortgage and build some equity. If it all fails, at least I'll make a few bucks on the back end with the real estate.'"

Before long business was booming. In addition to the bands, entertainment came to include dancers, parades, bonfires, drum circles, fire-baton acts and laser light shows. It was Branson for hippies. Once just a performer and promoter, Tebeau established his own vertically integrated music enterprise. Beyond the $60 cost of admission, concert attendees paid to rent their camping spot from him and purchased food, drinks, firewood and other goods from his general store. He staged five to seven festivals each year with an average attendance of 6,000 per event. Festivities commenced with "Spring Jam" in April and concluded with "Spookstock" on Halloween.

Photograph by Jennifer Silverberg

Location Info

Map

Zoe Campground & Amphitheater

Highway 19 at Sinking Creek
Salem, MO 65560

Category: Music Venues

Region: Outstate MO

From 2004 to 2010, Tebeau deposited more than $4.6 million cash in his local bank, according to a search warrant affidavit filed October 29, 2010, by an IRS special agent. The operation was so lucrative the DEA came to suspect he was peddling more than just music.

Local law-enforcement agents paid their first serious visit to Schwagstock in August 2006, according to court documents. Undercover officers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol bought two ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms from a pair of dealers making the rounds at Camp Zoe. The men told the officers they had three pounds they intended to unload before the festival ended. (Both dealers were later arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.) Beyond their encounter with the mushroom merchants, the troopers noted the "unfettered illegal drug use" they witnessed at Schwagstock.

"Drug sellers walk around the campground making contact with other campers and people gathered in front of the stages to watch the bands play," states an affidavit filed with a request for a search warrant on October 22, 2010. "The sellers will approach campers and ask if the campers want 'nuggets' for example, which is marijuana, or 'shrooms' meaning psychedelic mushrooms."

The undercover highway-patrol officers paid close attention to Tebeau's security force, a staff of about ten managed by St. Louis-based B&D Security, which operates at several prominent St. Louis music venues. (B&D Security declined to comment for this story.) The undercover agents reported that security guards merely asked dealers to be discreet and set up shop away from the main festival entrance. Dealers were "not hampered by the Camp Zoe security personnel; in fact, the investigating officers made controlled drug purchases from at least one security person," the affidavit reads.

Tebeau insists he had little control over the day-to-day operations at the campground. "I just came to play music," he says. "I rehearsed with the band all through the week, then played the show. I wasn't so in touch with daily activities of the campground and security. We hired security to deal with issues like [drugs], but apparently they weren't always doing their job."

Court documents state that Tebeau "visits the campgrounds very often, socializing with campers and checking their campsites." Officers videotaped Tebeau "smoking a substance that appears to be marijuana."

The frontman of a Grateful Dead tribute band indulging in a few puffs of reefer is hardly a revelation, but other incidents would soon confirm that drug dealing at Camp Zoe had crossed a line.


On August 15, 2006 — coincidentally, just after the weekend when the highway patrol first infiltrated Camp Zoe — a young man was found dead in a motel in Rolla. According to police, David Smith was headed home to Kansas City after attending Schwagstock. His friends said he'd recently taken four or five methadone pills he bought at the festival. A drug screening found amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine and marijuana in his system. The death was ruled an overdose.

The incident, coupled with the mushroom bust and accounts of unchecked drug dealing, compelled federal law enforcement to join the Missouri State Highway Patrol's investigation of Tebeau. Together the DEA, IRS and highway patrol spent the next three summers sending undercover agents to Schwagstock.

All told, the feds made more than 120 controlled drug buys from 2006 to 2010, acquiring everything from moonshine to marijuana to LSD tabs labeled "Foxy." When investigators failed during that period to prove that Tebeau did much other than promote concerts and perform, they searched for evidence that he was acting irresponsibly and indirectly profiting from the Camp Zoe drug trade.

On January 11, 2010, Tebeau's sister Christine Atkinson and her husband were arrested for buying pseudoephedrine from multiple stores in the same day. According to court documents, after grilling Atkinson about allegedly smurfing pills in order to manufacture meth, police asked about her duties at Camp Zoe.

Atkinson worked at "Safestock," an improvised medical facility at the campground. She told police that "kids show up at the festivals and that they use drugs like ecstasy and LSD for the first time." Atkinson said her job was keeping the inexperienced users hydrated and making sure their condition did not deteriorate.

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