- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Two Georgia prison inmates are accused of helping direct a drug trafficking operation in northeastern Alabama from behind bars, federal prosecutors said Monday.

A 19-count indictment charges eight people in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, authorities said in an emailed statement.

Georgia prison inmates Jose Balcazar, 36, and Miguel Manriquez, 38, are among those facing conspiracy charges. Federal officials said the men used contraband cellphones to communicate with at least eight people in Alabama and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The eight who have been indicted are accused of trafficking meth in Cleburne, Etowah, Marshall and DeKalb counties from December 2013 until May. Nine pounds of methamphetamine were recovered during the investigation into the conspiracy and distribution ring, investigators said.

Manriquez is serving a life sentence on a 2003 murder conviction and Balcazar is serving a 30-year sentence on a 2007 methamphetamine trafficking conviction, authorities said. Both men were living in the country illegally before their imprisonment, prosecutors said, and it is unclear from court records if either has an attorney.

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