When the FBI announced in November that it had taken down a Pleasant Grove drug ring, it buried the lede. Yes, the vague allegations of kidnapping and gave the story a bit more juice than the bust of a typical alligator-less street-level drug ring, and casually pointing out that one of the female suspects is nicknamed "Fatass" is a nice fluorish, but c'mon. For example, the FBI simply uses the word "torture" when it could have quoted from a police report, which alleges that members of the drug ring took the kidnapping victim to an apartment and began "kicking him, punching him, and burning him with a skillet while naked in a bath tub." And it scarcely mentions that the drug ring's continued existence might not have been possible had not its leader seduced his probation officer, who subsequently helped shield his activities from discovery.
On Tuesday the probation officer, 30-year-old Selena Ball, admitted to being part of the drug ring, pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance (cocaine).
According to court documents, Ball was assigned to monitor alleged ring-leader Patrick Lenard, a convicted murderer, on September 27, 2013, just after he was released from a Dallas County Jail on a $250,000 bond stemming from his alleged involvement in the November 2012 kidnapping and aforementioned skillet torture. Sometime between then and the time her assignment ended exactly eight months later, "Ball and Lenard engaged in a romantic relationship despite her position and despite the clear conflict that this relationship created," prosecutors say.
And so, Ball would modify or fail to report data from Lenard's GPS tracking device showing that he'd been frequenting parts of Dallas the terms of his release prevented him from going to. Some of these may have been innocuous. Shortly after Ball's tenure as Lenard's monitor ended, her supervisor filed a report showing that Lenard made post-midnight trips to a handful of strip clubs, a Whataburger, and a Waffle House during one three-day period.
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In other instances, Lenard's unauthorized trips were anything but. Running an organization that was allegedly trafficking in kilogram-quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana requires a certain amount of face-to-face contact, as does pressuring a kidnapping victim not to testify before a federal grand jury. Prosecutors say Lenard was doing both these things while Ball was misreporting his GPS readings.
Court documents don't make it entirely clear how exactly Ball was caught. On April 2, 2014, less than two months before she was off his case, Ball reported to the court that Lenard had violated his probation by traveling to a particular stretch of Jim Miller Road without prior approval. This less than a week after Lenard had filed a motion to remove his ankle monitor on the grounds that he "has complied with all conditions of bail" and "is in the entertainment business and is required to travel interstate to evaluate and schedule concerts." Whether Ball's report was an attempt to head off impending discovery of her relationship with Lenard, or whether it might have had something to do with the fact that, according to court documents, Lenard had at least one other girlfriend, is a matter for speculation.
Ball faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine. Her sentencing is scheduled for July 30.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.