‘Way above street level;’ 8 linked to St. John cocaine/heroin ring

Published 12:13 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

LAPLACE — Eight men were rounded up into federal custody this week, charged by authorities with running a cocaine and heroin distribution ring that operated “way above street level” in St. John the Baptist Parish.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced the Superseding Indictment’s unsealing Wednesday, charging an array of federal narcotics and firearm violations by members of a drug trafficking organization operating primarily in St. John and St. Charles Parishes.

The Superseding Indictment, which was returned by a grand jury May 26 and unsealed Wednesday, charges the defendants with conspiring to distribute controlled dangerous substances.

Polite said the defendants conspired between January 2015 and May of this year to distribute heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, adding the conspiracy’s scope encompassed “at least five kilograms or more of cocaine and one kilogram or more of heroin.”

The indictment names defendants Andre “Dre” Staggers, 42; Corey Session, 42; Gregory “Lil Gregg” London Jr., 40; Terrance “City” Anderson, 34; Kirk Ballard, 34; Leonard “Leonard London” Morrison, 33; Christopher Olavarietta, 30; and Kirkland Jerome Sterling, 42.

A representative in the U.S. Attorney’s office said the suspects, who were in federal custody this week, appeared Friday for an arraignment and detention hearing.

St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre said the suspects’ arrests this week represent a major dent in the drug trade, especially in St. John the Baptist Parish.

“This is way above street level,” he said. “This is suppliers. This is a pipeline that has kind of been shut down in St. John Parish. I think it helps make St. John Parish safer and it sends a message to others.”

Search warrants

Polite said search warrants executed Feb. 25 at two residences used by Corey Session resulted in the seizure of two AK-style rifles, approximately $10,000 in cash and a half kilogram of cocaine.

A search warrant executed the same day at Andre Staggers’ residence resulted in the seizure of an AR-15 rifle, a half-kilogram of heroin and more than $400,000 in cash.

Staggers, Session, London Jr., Anderson and Ballard each face a maximum of life imprisonment, a $10,000,000 fine and at least five years of supervised release.

Morrison faces a maximum of 40 years imprisonment, a $5,000,000 fine and at least four years of supervised release. Olavarietta and Sterling could receive a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine and at least three years of supervised release.

Tregre said the criminal cases mounted against the suspects are so strong he expects each person to seek a plea agreement.

Staggers and Session also are charged with federal firearms violations. Staggers is charged with possession of a firearm as a felon, for which he could receive up to ten years of imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release.

Session is charged with possession of a firearm as an armed career criminal, for which he could receive a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and up to five years of supervised release. Staggers and Session are also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, for which they each face a minimum of five years in prison consecutive to any other sentence, a $250,000 fine and up to five years of supervised release.

Polite said the indictment represents a coordinated federal and state law enforcement effort within the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.

Agents and officers with the group arrested London Jr., Anderson, Morrison, Olavarrieta and Sterling on Wednesday. Ballard was arrested Aug. 23, 2015, on state charges that were incorporated into the federal indictment. Staggers and Session were arrested after the Feb. 25 search warrants that were executed at their respective homes.

Local involvement

Tregre said his deputies assisted for months with the investigation, adding the discovery of assault weapons in the suspects’ possession indicated a willingness by the group to operate violently in the drug trade.

He cited the teamwork of Louisiana and federal officers as a major reason these cases were made.

“Criminals could care less about parish lines,” he said. “Guys like this could care less about what jurisdiction you’re in. In my years in law enforcement, this is the best networking we’ve had. I feel I can call anytime we need resources.”

Tregre said the partner agencies in this case were willing to bring their resources to St. John within a day’s notice.

“I don’t think we have ever really had that kind of relationship with our state and federal partners before,” Tregre said. “It has to (continue). I hope it does. We would all benefit from working together like that. That’s what it is going to take.”