Lancaster Residents Plead to Federal Firearm Charges Relating to Firearms Stolen from National Guard Armory
Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon stated that Austin Lee Ritter, age 32, and Kimberly Denise Cannon, age 40, both of Lancaster, each 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 destructive device not registered to them in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Sections 5841, 5861(d), and 5871. United States District Judge Michelle Childs, of Columbia, accepted the guilty plea and will impose sentence after she has reviewed the presentence report, 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 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 from WalMart, including an employee identification badge. After the traffic stop, Ritter and a co-defendant were located at the Carriage Inn Motel and found in possession of a small quantity of methamphetamine. A review of surveillance video from the motel showed Ritter, Cannon, and the co-defendant 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 firearms. Ritter and Cannon’s co-defendant’s case is still pending in federal court and he remains innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.
Both Ritter and Cannon are prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms and ammunition based upon their prior state convictions. Ritter has prior convictions for accessory after the fact of a felony, possession of a controlled substance, breach of trust, receiving stolen goods, and theft of a controlled substance. Cannon, who was on state probation at the time of this incident, has prior convictions for shoplifting, assault and battery, and obtaining property by false pretenses.
Ritter and Cannon each face 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.