A former drug counselor whose salary was paid by Operation UNITE has pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute nearly 1,000 tablets of the powerful narcotic oxycodone and is scheduled to be formally sentenced in federal court in January.
Kristi Lee Jackson, 36, of Letcher County, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring with 30- year- old co-defendant Jeffery Steven Pratt to “knowingly and intentionally distribute oxycodone.” The charge is one of two counts contained in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in London on April 28, about 10 months after Jackson and Pratt were arrested in Hazard after taking delivery of a package containing 990 tablets of oxycodone, a prescription painkiller.
Jackson was hired as a substance abuse counselor by the Letcher County School System in June 2005 after Operation UNITE agreed to pay her salary. Her job ended in June 2008, when UNITE said it could no longer afford to fund the position. Jackson had moved into the school system to work after serving as coordinator of the Letcher County Juvenile Drug Court, which she helped found in 2004.
A plea agreement submitted to U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove says that on June 23, 2010, Jackson rode as a passenger in a car driven by Pratt to a United Parcel Service (UPS) shipping center located on Dawahare Drive in Hazard. The agreement says Pratt was seen picking up and later opening a package containing the oxycodone pills and 75 tablets of the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam, which is sold under the brand name Xanax.
Jackson admits in the agreement that she knew the package was an illegal drug shipment and that the pills were sent by Pratt’s brother, Jesse Oaks, at the request of Pratt. She also admits to conspiring with Pratt to distribute the drugs and to concealing in her home $9,000 “which was to be used to facilitate such conspiracy in the future.”
Jackson and Pratt were arrested by Kenny Terry, a detective with the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), after the car driven by Pratt was stopped at the corner of Dawahare Drive and Morton Boulevard in Hazard.
Pratt has also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to distribute charge. Both he and Jackson could be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison and fined up to $1 million, but are expected to receive much lighter sentences in return for the guilty pleas. They also face up to three years of supervised probation upon their release from prison.
At a re-arraignment hearing held in U. S. District Court in London on Sept. 14, Judge Van Tatenhove revoked bond for both Jackson and Pratt and ordered that each will remain in federal custody until their sentencing hearing, which is set for 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 11, 2012.
Supplements to the plea agreements between Jackson, Pratt and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason D. Parman have also been filed, but were ordered sealed by Judge Van Tatenhove.
Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) is a counterdrug initiative organized by U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers in April 2003. The organization is based in London and is financed by federal and state funds, including coal severance tax. The program serves Letcher and 28 other Kentucky counties that make up the Fifth Congressional District.