Criminal Defense Attorney And Two Others Sentenced For Ill-Fated Drug Informant Scheme
Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich has sentenced Steven Paul Burch (43, Cape Coral), a criminal defense attorney, to 30 months’ imprisonment for conspiring to distribute heroin. The Court also ordered Burch to forfeit his license to practice law. Burch pleaded guilty in August 2018. On October 18, 2018, the Florida Supreme Court permanently disbarred him.
According to court documents, in August 2015, Burch was arrested in Sarasota County for driving under the influence of alcohol and causing property damage. In an effort to reduce his charges and avoid punishment from the Florida Bar, Burch recruited co-defendant and client, Herbert Battle, to send packages of drugs through the mail that Burch could then report to law enforcement as a form of cooperation. In late-December 2015, Burch had a meeting at his law office with Herbert and his wife, Qualonda Battle. Unbeknownst to Burch and Herbert Battle, Qualonda Battle had recorded the conversation. In the recording, Burch discusses how the packages were going to be sent, where they were going to go, and how the conspirators would get away with it.
In March 2016, Battle shipped an ounce of heroin from California to Sarasota County. Battle sent the tracking number to his wife who, using a disposable phone, texted the tracking number to Burch, who then forwarded the tracking number to law enforcement. The package was intercepted at the FedEx warehouse in Bradenton, where a search of the package revealed an ounce of heroin that had been concealed in a bag of beef jerky.
Herbert and Qualonda Battle previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Herbert Battle was sentenced to 33 months’ imprisonment and Qualonda Battle was sentenced to five years’ probation.
This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office (12th Judicial Circuit), and the Florida Bar Association. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Baeza and Diego Novaes.