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Drug dealer operating “way above street level” in St. John sentenced to 10 years

NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans man connected to a cocaine and heroin distribution ring that operated “way above street level” in St. John the Baptist Parish was sentenced this week to a decade in prison, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser said U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon sentenced Kirk Ballard, 37, to 10 years in prison and eight years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Strasser said court documents indicate Ballard is a member of a narcotics distribution conspiracy based in St. Charles Parish that sold narcotics in St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and other parishes.

On Aug. 23, 2015, Ballard was pulled over by a Louisiana State Police trooper for a traffic violation while travelling east on Interstate 10 in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Ballard said he was returning home to New Orleans from Houston. A K-9 positively alerted to the presence of narcotics in Ballard’s car. Officers then searched the vehicle and found 9.8 pounds of marijuana and 1,956 tablets of methamphetamine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew R. Payne, Brittany L. Reed and David Howard Sinkman handled the prosecution.

In June 2016, then-U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced a Superseding Indictment’s unsealing Wednesday, charging an array of federal narcotics and firearm violations by members — including Ballard — of a drug trafficking organization operating primarily in St. John and St. Charles Parishes. At the time, St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre said the suspects’ arrests represented 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.”