Lancaster Resident Pleads to Federal Firearm Charges Relating to Firearms Stolen From National Guard Armory
Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon stated that Brandon Shane Polston, age 32, of Lancaster, plead guilty in federal court to being a felon in possession of firearms, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e), and to possession of machineguns and a destructive device not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Sections 5841, 5861(d), and 5871. Co-defendants Austin Lee Ritter, age 23, and Kimberly Denise Cannon, age 40, both of Lancaster, each plead guilty to the same charges on June 25, 2018. United States District Judge Michelle Childs, of Columbia, accepted the guilty pleas and will impose sentences after she has reviewed the presentence reports, which will be prepared by the United States Probation Office.
Evidence presented in court established that on the early morning hours of November 26, 2017, an officer with the Lancaster Police Department conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by co-defendant Cannon after observing her littering. Further investigation during the traffic stop revealed the following inside the vehicle: a FNH, model M249, 5.56mm machinegun, two (2) Colt, model M-16, 5.56mm machineguns, two (2) Beretta, model M9, 9mm pistols, a Colt, model M203, 40mm grenade launcher (“destructive device”), night vision goggles, and various military items stolen from the Lancaster National Guard Armory. Officers also recovered various items stolen from WalMart, including an employee identification badge and employee vest.
After the traffic stop, Polston and a co-defendant Ritter were located at the a local motel and found in possession of a small quantity of methamphetamine. A review of surveillance video from the motel showed Polston and his co-defendants Ritter and Cannon bringing the bags containing the firearms back and forth between the vehicle and the motel room. Additionally, searches of Ritter and Cannon’s cell phones revealed various photos and text messages relating to the stolen firearms. One of the photos appeared to be a “selfie” of Ritter sitting in the front seat of a vehicle with Polston sitting in the rear seat beside a M-16 machinegun. During the investigation, both Ritter and Cannon advised agents that Polston took them to an area near a residential complex where they retrieved bags containing the stolen firearms from a ditch.
Polston and his co-defendants Ritter and Cannon are all prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms and ammunition based upon their prior state convictions. Polston has prior convictions for breaking into autos (2 counts), malicious injury to person property over $2,000, but less than $10,000, assault and battery 1st degree, burglary 2nd degree (2 counts), receiving stolen goods over $2,000 but less than $10,000, and property offense 3rd or subsequent. Polston was released from the South Carolina Department of Corrections in February 2017.
Polston, like co-defendants Ritter and Cannon, faces a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and 3 years of supervised release on each of the firearm charges.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Lancaster Police Department, and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and was prosecuted as part of Project CeaseFire, a joint federal, state and local initiative focused upon aggressively prosecuting firearm cases in an effort to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer. Project CeaseFire is South Carolina’s implementation of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a crime reduction strategy originally launched in 2001. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority and reinstituted PSN nationwide. Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes of the Columbia office handled the case.