Eastern District of Kentucky NEWS U.S. Department of Justice

Knox County Man Sentenced to 22 Years for Armed Methamphetamine Trafficking

LONDON, Ky. — A Corbin, Ky., man, John Helton, was sentenced to 264 months or 22 years in federal prison on Tuesday, by U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom, after previously being convicted of armed methamphetamine trafficking and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The evidence at trial established that, on June 9, 2019, deputies with the Knox and Laurel County Sheriff’s Offices searched the residence that Helton shared with his wife, Anita, seizing over 300 grams of crystal methamphetamine and four firearms, including three that were loaded.  Helton then directed his wife to go to his mother’s residence, to get money to bond him out of jail.  When law enforcement searched that residence, they found over $8,000 secreted in a closet.  A search of a child’s playhouse on the property also revealed over 800 grams of additional crystal methamphetamine, and another firearm.  The Kentucky State Police had made a controlled purchase of methamphetamine that was arranged with Helton, but delivered by his wife. 

Anita Helton pled guilty to conspiring with Helton to distribute methamphetamine and possessing firearms in furtherance of that offense.  Anita Helton was sentenced to 38 months, followed by five years of supervised release.

Under federal law, Helton must serve 85 percent of his sentence.  Upon his release, he will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for 10 years.

Carlton S. Shier, IV, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Jeffrey T. Scott, Special Agent in Charge, DEA, Louisville Field Division; Lt. Phillip Burnett, Acting Commissioner, Kentucky State Police; Sheriff Mike Smith, Knox County Sheriff’s Department; and Sheriff John Root, Laurel County Sheriff’s Department, jointly announced the sentencing.

The investigation was conducted by the DEA, KSP, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office.  The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew H. Trimble.

This case was prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s “Project Safe Neighborhoods” Program (PSN), which is a nationwide, crime reduction strategy aimed at decreasing violent crime in communities.  It involves a comprehensive approach to public safety — one that includes investigating and prosecuting crimes, along with prevention and reentry efforts. In the Eastern District of Kentucky, the United States Attorney coordinates PSN efforts in cooperation with various federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws.  Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. Click here for more information about Project Guardian.

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