Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 6, 2011

Four more guilty pleas in pill pipeline case

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — Four defendants in a federal pill-trafficking case who had been scheduled to stand trial next week have pleaded or will plead guilty.

Their guilty pleas followed those their three co-defendants, who entered them last month.

Keith M. Duran and Michelle Gullett both were re-arraigned Wednesday in Covington before U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning for the purpose of changing their pleas from not guilty to guilty on charges of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.

Also on Wednesday, attorneys for defendants Roderick Burton and Christopher Burton filed notice that their clients intend to plead guilty. Roderick Burton’s re-arraignment is scheduled for Friday, also in Covington. Christopher Burton’s hasn’t been scheduled.

Duran, whose age and address were not immediately available; Gullett, 26, of Midland Trial; and Roderick Burton, 51, of Beech Street; and Christopher Burton, 29, of McClure Street; were among seven arrested in mid-October by the Boyd County Sheriff’s Drug Task Force in connection with an alleged conspiracy involving the importation and distribution of 3,000 to 5,000 oxycodone pills a week in Boyd County.

Roderick and Christopher Burton are father and son.

Three of the other defendants, Stephen Bentley, 51, of Woodmont Avenue; Jerry Bentley, 55, of Harrison Street; and Christina Bentley, 29, of Ashby Drive; pleaded guilty in December. Stephen and Jerry Bentley are brothers. Christina Bentley is Stephen Bentley’s daughter.

According to documents, from November 2008 through September 2010, the Bentleys and others engaged in a conspiracy to obtain oxycodone pills from Florida and Georgia and distribute them locally. The source for many of the pills was Duran, who showed the Bentleys, Burton and others clinics in Florida where they could obtain them.

Duran also facilitated the receipt of money from the Bentleys and the mailing of pills to Stephen Bentley on behalf of a third party, according to his plea agreement.

Jerry Bentley also sponsored others to travel to Florida to obtain pills and deliver them to his brother. In exchange, he received pills for resale and for his personal use, documents state.

Jerry Bentley was arrested on June 19. At the time of his arrest, Boyd County sheriff’s deputies confiscated about 1,200 oxycodone tablets and $9,000 cash.

The following month, Stephen Bentley sold pills to a confidential informant working for the Drug Enforcement Administration on two separate occasions, records state.

Sentencings for the defendants who have pleaded is scheduled for April. Each faces up to 20 years in prison. However, the application of federal sentencing guidelines likely will result in them receiving far shorter sentences.

The Burtons, Gullett and Duran were scheduled to stand trial beginning Monday.

The arrests and indictments of the seven were the result of an 18-month joint investigation by the sheriff’s department’s and the Lexington DEA office.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.