- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - A Sept. 29 sentencing date has been set for a Mississippi man accused in scheme to traffic large quantities of meth from California to various areas in Jackson County.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1UH7fZ8) Scott Joseph Houska, 48, of Gautier, is facing a sentence of up to 40 years in prison on a federal charge of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of meth. He pleaded guilty in June.

A federal grand jury indicted Houska; Michael Wayne Hanzik Jr., 27, of Pascagoula, Mississippi; and Marques Deanthony Payton, 36, of Fresno, California, on one count each of conspiracy to distribute meth in the case. In addition, Houska and Hanzik were indicted on a charge of possession with intent to distribute meth. In exchange for Houska’s plea, the government dismissed his conspiracy charge.

Court papers identified the three as major meth distributors in Jackson County.

The DEA, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, George County deputies and agents with the South Mississippi Metro Enforcement Team took part in the investigation.

The federal probe began after authorities received information identifying Payton as a major meth supplier in Jackson County. Buyers wired money to bank accounts in Fresno to pay for the drugs, records say.

Hanzik was the first taken into custody after authorities received a tip identifying him as a meth distributor known to conceal the drugs inside tennis balls. On March 24, agents watched as he pulled into a Mississippi 63 store for a drug deal.

When he was arrested, he had a plastic bag containing a half-ounce of meth in his mouth and 4 grams of meth in tennis balls in his car.

Also, a Federal Express package intercepted in California that contained a pound of meth was addressed to his Pascagoula home.

DEA agents the same day monitored a call to Payton, during which he expressed his frustration over unpaid drug payments. He later identified two people who needed to pay for their drugs in text messages authorities found.

Hanzik and Payton are scheduled to go to trial on the Sept. 8 court calendar. Payton’s attorney has filed a motion requesting the trial be delayed until a later date.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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