Mother, Son, Daughter Plead Guilty to $5.4 Million Meth Conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, MO (STL.News) A mother, her son, and her daughter are among four defendants who pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to their roles in a $5.4 million conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Linda Kay Ballard, 67, her son, Eric Edward Ballard, 27, both of Atchison, Kansas; her daughter, Charlsie Kim Harris, 35, of Garden City, Missouri, and Anthony Dewayne Fifer, 48, of Mexico, Missouri, pleaded guilty in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to their roles in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from Jan. 1, 2015, to Nov. 16, 2017.  Each of the defendants also pleaded guilty to participating in a money-laundering conspiracy.  Linda Ballard and Harris were taken into custody immediately after today’s hearing; Eric Ballard and Fifer have been in federal custody since their arrests.

They are among nine defendants who have pleaded guilty in this case. Michaela Joeanne Hernandez, 38, of Raymore, Missouri; Brandy Michael Morgan, 45, of Kansas City, Missouri; Brian Joe Russell, 38, of Amazonia, Missouri; Sharmyn Leanne Shryock, 29, and Jeffery Allen Jennings, 33, both of St. Joseph, Missouri; have also pleaded guilty.

According to today’s plea agreements, Linda and Eric Ballard and Harris received methamphetamine from Hernandez to distribute.  They received ounce quantities of methamphetamine multiple times a week.  Linda Ballard also admitted she received methamphetamine from Fifer to distribute.

Fifer, who also received methamphetamine from Hernandez, admitted that he normally received ounces but on a couple of occasions, he took quarter-pound quantities of methamphetamine to St. Joseph and delivered it to Jennings.

Investigators identified Hernandez as the main distributor in the organization, coordinating large distributions of methamphetamine from the Kansas City area to the St. Joseph and Atchison areas, where it was divided and distributed by the remaining defendants.  Law enforcement officers seized approximately three pounds of methamphetamine and two handguns when they executed a search warrant at her residence.  Hernandez admitted that she was typically in possession of at least pound quantities of methamphetamine, and that she had been involved in selling over 50 kilograms of methamphetamine per month in the past year.

Linda Ballard agreed the government’s evidence of her total drug responsibility is more than five kilograms of methamphetamine, which she is responsible for distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute.

Eric Ballard, Harris, and Fifer each agreed the government’s evidence of their total drug responsibility is more than 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine apiece, which they are each responsible for distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute.

Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the four co-defendants must pay a money judgment in an amount based upon their drug responsibility (as determined by the court) and the drug value calculations contained within the indictment, not to exceed $5.4 million.

Under federal statutes, Linda and Eric Ballard, Harris, and Fifer are each subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 60 years in federal prison without parole.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.