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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 7, 2017

Burlington Woman Sentenced To 8 Months In Prison For Drug Conspiracy

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that, on April 6, 2017, Laura Berard, 55, of Burlington, Vermont was sentenced to 8 months in federal prison after her guilty plea to charges that she conspired to distribute heroin and cocaine base. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss also ordered that Berard serve three years of supervised release after her prison term.

According to court records, in late 2015 and early 2016, Berard permitted a heroin and cocaine dealer from the New York City area to use her apartment as a base from which to deal drugs. Berard’s apartment on North Champlain Street in Burlington was adjacent to the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes, a public elementary school. On June 2, 2016, a federal grand jury in the District of Vermont returned a five-count indictment charging Berard and her co-defendant, John Williams, aka “Ace,” with conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine base and distributing those substances within 1000 feet of a school. Berard pled guilty to the conspiracy charges on December 29, 2016. Williams’ case is pending trial.

For her crime, Berard faced a statutory maximum term of 20 years in prison. The United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are advisory, recommended that Berard receive a prison term between 8 and 14 months. In determining that an 8-month sentence was appropriate, Judge Reiss considered, among other factors, Berard’s poor health, the severity of the offense, Berard’s violations of pretrial conditions of release, and her lengthy criminal record, which includes a federal conviction in the District of Vermont in 2000 for distributing heroin.

Acting United States Attorney Eugenia Cowles emphasized that the indictment against Berard’s co-defendant is an accusation only and that he remains innocent unless and until he is proven guilty. Acting United States Attorney Cowles commended the Burlington Police Department, HSI, and DEA for their work in this investigation. She noted that this case is part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Vermont Heroin Initiative, which is a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to combat heroin distribution in Vermont.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Doherty, Jr handled this prosecution. Assistant Federal Public Defender Steven Barth represents Berard.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated April 7, 2017