PITTSBURGH – A resident of Detroit, Michigan pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of violating federal narcotics laws, United States Attorney Cindy K. Chung announced today.
Darryl Junior Ballard, age 27, pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge David S. Cercone.
Ballard pleaded guilty to a lesser included offense at Count One of the Superseding Indictment, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing detectable amounts of heroin and fentanyl, and 28 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine base. Ballard also pleaded guilty to Count Two of the Superseding Indictment, charging him with distribution of a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin.
In connection with the guilty plea, the Court was advised that in May of 2020, federal, state and local enforcement opened a joint investigation into a drug trafficking organization from Detroit, Michigan that was distributing controlled substances in and around Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Law enforcement identified the members of the conspiracy through the interception of members transporting controlled substances from Detroit into Beaver County, in addition to controlled purchase operations.
For example, on May 29, 2020, law enforcement utilized a confidential informant to purchase controlled substances from Ballard. The informant negotiated the purchase of heroin using a cellular phone and was directed to travel to an apartment in New Brighton to purchase the controlled substance. Upon entering the buy location, Ballard sold the informant heroin in exchange for pre-recorded funds. On June 5, 2020, law enforcement seized the same pre-recorded funds during the execution of a search warrant at an apartment used by members of the conspiracy.
In addition to this controlled purchase operation, law enforcement intercepted controlled substances transported by the conspirators on several occasions. For example, on Feb. 26, 2021, law enforcement conducted mobile physical surveillance on a vehicle entering Beaver County with co-defendant Devonte Amos and Ballard as passengers. When Amos and Ballard exited the vehicle in Beaver County, officers approached to question them. In response, Amos and Ballard both fled on foot. While fleeing, Amos threw a backpack containing approximately 170 net grams of a fentanyl/heroin mixture and 90 net grams of cocaine base.
Judge Cercone scheduled sentencing for April 4, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. The law provides for a total sentence of not less than five years and not more than 40 years in prison, a fine of $5,000,000 or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Pending sentencing, the court continued the defendant on bond.
Assistant United States Attorney Brendan J. McKenna is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, and Pennsylvania State Police conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Ballard.