Meth ring suspects enter not guilty pleas
By Dwayne Bremer
Oct 22, 2013, 20:06
Five people, four of whom are from Hancock County, are set to go to trial in a federal drug conspiracy case.
Last week, Jessey Bellais, 29; his brother Cole Bellais; 26, Justin Brown; 27, Miranda Comfort; 21, and Steven Gentry, 34, all pled not guilty in U.S. District Court in Gulfport.
The five suspects were arrested in September after a six-month joint-investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Hancock County Sheriff's Office.
The Bellais brothers, Comfort, Brown, and Gentry were all charged federally with conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of meth.
Three other suspects were arrested on state charges and their respective cases are being handled by Hancock County Justice Court.
At a detention hearing last month, federal officials said they believed Gentry was the leader of the group. Officials said he brought in methamphetamine from Texas, transferred it to the others defendants, who then sold it.
During the investigation, federal agents used confidential informants to purchase drugs from the Bellais', Brown, Comfort and Gentry, Homeland Security Agent Ben Taylor testified in September.
Some of the purchases were in excess of $1,000 at a time, he said.
Taylor said the drugs were tested and came back to be 99.9 percent pure meth.
In addition to his testimony, Taylor said in a sworn affidavit that Gentry had gotten wind of the investigation and began riding around with an AK-47 assault rifle, claiming he would use the weapon to defend himself if agents tried to arrest him.
Taylor also said that Gentry and others began making threats to state and federal agents via text messages and social media.
Taylor said he did not think any of the suspects should be given a bond because they "are a threat to the public."
Comfort was released on bond, but both Bellais', Brown, and Gentry remain in custody. Trials for the five suspects are tentatively set to begin on Nov. 4.