Court documents show that a Belfast man has been remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service after admitting to participating in a cocaine distribution operation during a hearing at U.S. District Court in Bangor.

During a change of plea hearing Friday, July 22, 34-year-old Phillip Kelley of Belfast pleaded guilty to a federal-level charge of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, according to court records.

Court records indicate that Kelley was charged for his alleged role in a cocaine distribution ring that stretched from Bronx, N.Y., to Midcoast Maine, and that he sold the drug between Jan. 1, 2005, and March 20, 2009.

Kelley was initially scheduled for a change of plea hearing in March, but court documents state that the day before he was to be in court, Kelley reportedly sustained a workplace injury that required him to have one of his fingers amputated. Judge John A. Woodcock had since granted several motions to continue Kelley’s change of plea hearing due to the injury.

Kelley initially pleaded not guilty to the charge in November 2010, shortly after his arrest.

The prosecution’s version of events state that the drug distribution conspiracy was discovered when police raided the home of an individual identified in court documents as a “cooperating defendant” on March 20, 2009. At that time it was learned that the source of the cocaine was a co-conspirator located in Bronx, N.Y., identified as Carlos Flores Zamora.

Zamora, 34, pleaded guilty to charges of distribution of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. In September, Zamora was sentenced to serve more than 14 years in federal prison and five years of supervised release, with the stipulation Zamora will be surrendered to the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation upon his release from prison.

If Zamora is deported upon his release, court documents state that he should remain outside the United States to carry out the terms of his supervised release. Court documents indicated Zamora had been removed from the country once in 1998, and on at least one more occasion in 2004.

The prosecution asserted that Kelley, as well as several others, sold cocaine in Waldo County. The prosecution further stated that two cooperating defendants said they began receiving four or five ounces of cocaine twice a month from a third cooperating defendant in late 2005, and that within a year the deliveries increased to 10 ounces every three or four weeks.

One of the cooperating defendants told authorities, according to court records, that Kelley was his neighbor and had also been his customer for about a year prior to the raid of his home. Court records stated Kelley had fronted one to two ounces of cocaine per week from his neighbor, and that initially, Kelley’s neighbor suspected that he was fronting the drug for another person to sell. Eventually, Kelley introduced his neighbor to another man who was reportedly selling the cocaine from Kelley’s residence.

In a brief that was filed with the court Thursday, July 21, Kelley’s court-appointed lawyer, Stephen C. Smith, stated that while Kelley was prepared to enter his guilty plea at his hearing the following day, he disputed some of the facts presented by the prosecution.

In the brief, Smith stated that Kelley disputed the quantity of cocaine that he was accused of fronting from one of the cooperating defendants in the case. Kelley also disputed that he occasionally sold the drug from his trailer, as it was not Kelley’s regular practice to do so.

Earlier this month, two brothers from Belfast who authorities say were also connected to the case each pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine in Waldo County. Christopher Hurley, 29, of New York (formerly of Belfast) and Matthew Hurley, 26, of Belfast (formerly of Los Angeles) each pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bangor Monday, July 11.

At the time of their arrests in November 2010, neither Christopher nor Matthew Hurley was still living in Belfast. Both brothers initially pleaded not guilty to the charge against them and had been free on bail up until the change of plea hearing. Following the hearing, Judge Woodcock remanded the brothers to the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service, according to court records.

Court documents do not indicate when the Hurley brothers or Kelley will be sentenced. All three men face one count of the same charge, and all could serve between five and 40 years in prison, a fine of up to  $2 million and at least four years of supervised release.

Other members of the conspiracy who have pleaded guilty and have already been sentenced include Zamora and Ralphy Dominguez, also of Bronx, N.Y., as well as Shawn Perito, Richard Calligan, Jeffrey Emerson, Rodney Littlefield, Michael Dunn and Nathan Dodd, according to court records.