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Press Release

Heroin Trafficker Convicted at Trial, Faces Life in Federal Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Carolina

Contact Person: Sean Kittrell (843) 727-4381

Columbia, South Carolina ---- Acting United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that  Kenneth Kennedy Shannon, 51 years old, from Vance, South Carolina, who was a defendant charged in a conspiracy involving more than a kilogram of heroin, has been convicted after a trial in federal court in Charleston. Acting United States Attorney Drake noted that the indictment was the result of the work of the Charleston Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is comprised of federal agents and task force officers from local Charleston area agencies.  She said that there is an effort underway to address heroin trafficking in the Charleston community.  Ms. Drake advised that Assistant United States Attorney Sean Kittrell and Assistant United States Attorney Matt Austin of the Charleston office coordinated the investigation and prosecuted the case. 

Evidence presented during the trial showed that the investigation began after a series of overdoses affected the Charleston community.  Over time, Shannon was identified as a major source of supply effort.  Assistant United States Matt Austin said that Shannon was intercepted on a wiretap and investigators learned that he was bringing a load of heroin down by train from New York on February 27, 2014.  He got off the train in Kingstree, South Carolina, and went to his stash house in Vance, South Carolina.  The next day, Shannon, essentially a wholesaler, drove to meet with one of his retail distributors.  The DEA Task Force, working with the North Charleston Police Department, made a traffic stop on the in which he was riding Tahoe.  Shannon, the passenger, was being driven by a close relative who had his 8 month old grandchild in a car seat in the back of the SUV.  After the driver got out of the vehicle to speak with police, Shannon jumped over the console into the driver’s seat.  He took off and led police on a high speed chase.  That chase was called off as soon as police realized that there was a child in the car.  While Shannon was fleeing from police, a citizen saw the driver of the Chevrolet Tahoe throw a baseball sized bag out of the window near Tony Way and flagged down an alert North Charleston police officer involved in the chase.  Assistant United States Sean Kittrell said that although the bag was run over by another vehicle, the officer was able to recover approximately two (2) grams of heroin (or enough for about 67 bags or doses of heroin, according to Kittrell).  Shannon also threw another package out on the ramp at Montague Avenue which was later recovered by DEA agents.  The box held 500 bags containing, altogether, 9 grams of heroin (or enough for about 300 bags or doses of heroin, according to Kittrell).  The bags were light blue.  Testimony revealed that this was a marketing tool and that the blue heroin was regarded as a great product. 

The task force learned where Shannon was and arrested him in the Tahoe later that same afternoon.  It had residue powder on the driver’s side door.  Agents concluded that the residue came from throwing the baseball sized bag of heroin out of the SUV.   Because the baby was not in the car, the task force immediately began to attempt to ascertain the child’s location.  Once they learned the baby was safe, agents executed a search warrant for Shannon’s stash house in Vance, South Carolina.  Inside, agents recovered approximately 130 grams of heroin (enough for about 4,334 bags or doses of heroin, according to Kittrell), a Krupp’s coffee grinder with heroin residue along with two metal strainers, a digital scale, and a glass pestle (all used to chop up compressed blocks of heroin ); twelve small cardboard brown boxes, each holding about 600 unused individual "bindle" bags (all packaging for individual drug sales); a green grocery bag with many more "bindle" bags; two digital scales; a traffic citation issued to Kenneth Kennedy Shannon; and seven bars of Mannite "Cicogna" which is used as a cutting agent by heroin traffickers to increase the weight of drugs to create more product. 

Testimony during the trial established that Shannon was the head of a distribution chain which distributed an excess of a kilogram of heroin from 2012 till his arrest on February 28, 2012.  That is the equivalent of over 33,000 bags or doses of heroin, with a street value of well over $600,000.00 according to Kittrell.  Under federal sentencing laws, he faces a sentence of life in federal prison without parole.  Kittrell said that there was an unusually dramatic moment during the trial, when Shannon jumped up and started screaming at the court and the jury.  He had to be subdued by deputy United States Marshals and removed from the courtroom.

Chief Greg Mullen of the City of Charleston Police Department said that the partnership between the federal agencies and local police, which led to the conviction, is truly effective.  “This trial is an example of how law enforcement teamwork can effectively combat the sources of supply of heroin which have been plaguing our community.  Here, the City of Charleston Police Department, the North Charleston Police Department, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, all of us, worked closely together to identify, investigate and prosecute a major heroin dealer.  Heroin is on the rise, and it needs to come off of the street.  It is reaching all aspects of community, in all our neighborhoods.  Only by working together with strong inter-agency partnerships will we be able to fight this.  Shannon faces a life sentence, and sentences like that greatly impact dealers who decide whether to stay in business."

Jason Sandoval, Resident Agent in Charge of the local DEA office commented, “The Charleston community is not immune to the heroin problem devastating communities across the country. Shannon's secretive, insular, and evasive methods enabled him to remain a significant heroin source of supply for far too long. The guilty verdict against Shannon on all counts sent a clear message that enough is enough. The successful conclusion of this investigation was made possible by the unyielding efforts of a law enforcement coalition of local agencies, DEA, and the US Attorney’s Office dedicated to protecting our community. This success speaks to the effectiveness we can realize when we work together as a coalition of concerned citizens, police, and prosecutors. The DEA task force is dedicated to being a full partner of local and federal agencies, citizen advocacy groups, and all others who wish to stem the scourge of heroin in our community.”


Updated August 2, 2016

Drug Trafficking