By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Nine defendants, most from Tupelo, face a 10-count federal indictment claiming they were part of a regional cocaine conspiracy.
Charges were issued Oct. 25 but were not unsealed until recently for arrest warrants to be issued.
Accused in the drug and money laundering scheme are Derek “St. Louis” Miller, 36, Yulande Scott, 33, Brakeia Pannell, 27, Jervis G. Moore, 36, Serrell Perkins, 40, Frederick “Ricky” Douglas, 53, and Heather Smith, 24, all of Tupelo, and Shonta Grice, 32, of West Point and Demetrius Babbit, 36, no address given.
Their nine-page indictment accuses them of varying roles in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine in North Mississippi.
The alleged conspiracy began about Feb. 1, 2009, and continued through Aug. 5, 2012.
Miller and Smith are accused of instigating the conspiracy and of acquiring $355,460 and depositing much of it into safe deposit boxes at Renasant Bank in Belden and Regions Bank at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo.
The others are accused of the illegal sale of cocaine.
Their initial hearings occurred Tuesday through Thursday before Magistrate Judge S. Allen Alexander in Oxford.
Not guilty pleas were entered by Pannell, Grice, Smith, Miller and Babbit.
Alexander set bond for Babbitt and Pannell at $10,000, and $5,000 each for Smith and Grice.
Included in the indictment is the government’s request for forfeit of the $355,460 and any other gains by the defendants, upon their conviction of the charges.
If convicted on the conspiracy count, they face up to 40 years in prison and $5 million in fines, or both. Penalties increase up to life in prison and $8 million fines, if any have a prior felony drug conviction.
On the money laundering charge, Miller and Smith face up to 20 years in prison and large fines if convicted.
Penalties for conviction on the sale charges are equally severe.