BURLINGTON, Vt. — A Vermont man considered a suspect in the disappearance of a man with whom he was conducting a drug deal was ordered held without bail by a judge on Thursday while he faces federal firearms charges.

Magistrate Judge John Conroy ordered Richard Whitcomb, of Hartford, to be held pending trial, granting a request from prosecutors who contended Whitcomb would pose a danger to the community if he were released.

Court documents filed before the hearing said that Whitcomb, 38, who has a lengthy criminal record, likely was the last person to see Austin Colson, whose 20th birthday was this week. Colson has not been seen since Jan. 11.

“He has not yet been found, but the defendant is a suspect in Colson’s disappearance,” said a federal court filing by prosecutors on Monday.

The court documents said Whitcomb admitted using a firearm as collateral in a drug deal with Colson. That weapon, which was turned over to police, had an 8-round magazine that contained five bullets. Prosecutors said Whitcomb also lied about a number of details of the case.

Whitcomb’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

The Vermont State Police have been investigating Colson’s disappearance for the last five weeks.

“It continues to be an active missing persons investigation,” said Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill. “At this time, there is significant reason to believe that foul play was involved.”

Colson’s mother, DeAunna Claflin, told the Valley News on Wednesday she had lost all hope that her son is alive. She said she just wants to find his body.

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