GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A total of 15 people have now been arrested in George and Jackson counties, accused of taking part in a drug trafficking ring that distributed methamphetamine.
The latest arrests include Learthur Silas, 36, of George County; Melvin Walker, 27, of Greene County; Tykail Moye, 23, of George County; Darrell Dennis, 31, of George County; Mario Fairley, 36, of George County; Christopher Bolton, 31, of Jackson County; Marquis Collins, 29, of Jackson County; and Edward Brown, 30, of Jackson County.
The FBI says those arrested are associates or members of two street gangs: Black Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords.
The arrests followed a two-year, joint investigation that involved the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, along with several other local law enforcement agencies.
Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Garguilo on Friday morning were defendants Jerry Street, 35, of George County; Garnett Smith, 38, of George County; Alisha Smith, 36, of George County; Timothy Havard, 40, of George County; Mareo Green, 36, of Greene County; and Tarsen Fairley, 29, of George County.
Additionally, defendant Zack Bexton, 30, of George County, was arrested in Vancouver, Washington.
Each of the defendants face a variety of federal drug charges, including conspiracy to possess, with intent to distribute a controlled substance, in this case, methamphetamine.
If convicted on that charge alone, they could be sentenced to a maximum 10 years to life in prison and face a $10 million fine.
Four of the six defendants who appeared in federal court Friday morning were given court appointed attorneys before being arraigned. Each pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
A trial date has been set for April 3 before federal judge, Louis Guirola.
The two remaining defendants, Timothy Havard, and Tarsen Fairley, have hired a private attorney and will be arraigned on Tuesday.
During procedural questioning, the judge asked each defendant if they had consumed alcohol or drugs in the past 48 hours. Defendants, Garnett Smith and Alisha Smith, told the judge they had both used meth two days ago.
The judge asked each defendant about any mental condition or treatment they had received. Defendant Jerry Street told the judge he's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. Defendant Alisha Smith told the judge she's been diagnosed with manic depression and anxiety.
Past records show that defendant Jerry Street has faced drug charges before in George County. Street was arrested in January after authorities raided his home and found a pound of high grade marijuana.
The defendants, who wore handcuffs and leg shackles, are being held at the Harrison County Jail.
The government wants each of the defendants held in custody until their trial. A detention hearing to settle that issue will be held on Tuesday.
The arrests were the result of a two-year joint investigation that involved the FBI Safe Streets Task Force.