ABERDEEN - North Mississippi prosecutors will employ a seldom-used law against three defendants accused in an alleged conspiracy to sell powder cocaine.

The Continuing Criminal Enterprise Statute, also called "The Kingpin Statute," targets those believed to be large-scale drug traffickers allegedly responsible for long-term and elaborate drug conspiracies.

Twelve defendants remain in jail and five are out on bond facing a 41-count federal indictment. If found guilty, some face up to life in prison.

Their 20-page indictment, filed Nov. 17 in the Northern District of Mississippi, claims they were part of a multi-year conspiracy out of Batesville to distribute more than 500 grams or 17 ounces of a mixture containing powder cocaine.

Three of the 17 defendants were indicted using the CCE law - L.C. Ewing, 27, of Tupelo, Lonzo Lezell Griffin, 29, of Cypress, Texas, and Michael Ladell Allen, 32, of Batesville.

The indictment describes each as an "organizer" and a "leader" in the alleged criminal enterprise. As such, a conviction brings a sentence of 20 years in prison up to life, and up to a $2 million fine, or both.

Lawlect.com says the number of prosecutions based on this statute is small compared to major federal offense categories, such as drug trafficking. And convictions require both proof of an offense, as well as a pattern or set of circumstances connected with that offense.

After hearings a week ago, Magistrate Judge Jerry A. Davis ordered detention for Ewing, Griffin and Allen.

All 17 defendants are accused in a scheme to possess narcotics for sale.

Four of them are from Lee County - Roy Dale Ross, 29, of Plantersville, Tomisha Lattrice Ford, 27, of Nettleton, Stacy Moore, 28, of Shannon, and Shalise Ewing, 28, of Tupelo.

Ross and Terry Lamar Ewing, 32, of West Point also are accused on a violent-crime statute of possessing a gun in the furtherance of a drug crime.

As of Tuesday, others still in jail are Ross, Terry Ewing, Jamie Terrell Bean, 34, of Pheba; Michael Tyrone Coats, 37, of Louisville; Jeremiah Starks, 27, of Mantee; Derrick Patrick, 36, of Houston; and Ronnie Dean Bennett, 35, and Undrake Lawmarco Lane, 23, both from West Point; and Clemeko Dewayne Starks, 33, of Sardis.

Out on $10,000 bond each were Ford, Shalise Ewing, Moore, Shantana Shana Joiner, 22, of Batesville, and Everlyn Nekeshia McKinney, 26, of Sardis.

Contact Patsy Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

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