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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 23, 2019

SCDC Inmate and Four Others Convicted on Federal Drug Trafficking Charges After Eight-Day Jury Trial

Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that after an eight-day trial, a federal jury convicted Glenn Pernell, 41, his sister Whitney Pernell, 29, and their cousin Fatima Ford, 33, all of Marion County, and Santerrio Smith, 31, and Terrence Dunlap, 25, of Columbia, on drug trafficking charges.  These five defendants were charged along with 11 others in a 53-count Superseding Indictment alleging drug conspiracy and related charges.

“This case shows once again that the unfettered use of contraband cell phones enables inmates to continue committing crimes that harm the public even while they are behind bars,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “In partnership with the South Carolina Department of Corrections, we will continue to fight the public safety threat caused by contraband cell phones in our prisons.  We applaud the FBI’s Columbia Violent Gang Task Force and the trial team for their tireless work in dismantling this drug trafficking ring, which was responsible for pouring cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin into our neighborhoods.”

According to the evidence, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Columbia Violent Gang Task Force (CVGTF) began investigating Smith in 2016 for drug trafficking.  Wiretaps on Smith’s phones revealed a network of individuals with whom Smith was heavily involved, including Terrence Dunlap, Smith’s “right-hand man,” who stored cocaine and heroin for Smith and who cooked cocaine into crack cocaine for sale on the streets of Richland County.  Agents discovered that one of Smith’s primary drug suppliers was Glenn Pernell, an inmate at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.  Pernell used contraband cell phones to communicate with Smith and arrange for deliveries of cocaine and heroin to Smith.  Pernell relied on family members and close friends, including his sister Whitney Pernell and his cousin Fatima Ford, to store drugs and money for his drug trafficking organization.

Three other women testified that, while he was incarcerated, Glenn Pernell contacted them through Facebook.  After he made a personal connection with the women, Pernell sent each of them gifts and money to help pay their bills.  Eventually, Pernell began asking for favors in return; the women began making drug and money runs for Pernell until July 3, 2017, when one of the women was stopped by law enforcement while on her way to deliver a large amount of cocaine to Smith.  

After deliberating for nearly a day, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all charges: 

Glenn Pernell was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and heroin.  He was attributed 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1 kilogram or more of heroin.  He was also convicted of four counts of use of a communication facility in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Whitney Pernell was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and heroin.  She was attributed 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1 kilogram or more of heroin.  She was also convicted of one count of use of a communication facility in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Fatima Ford was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and heroin.  She was attributed 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1 kilogram or more of heroin.

Santerrio Smith was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and heroin.  He was attributed 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 280 grams or more of cocaine base, and 100 grams or more of heroin.  He was also convicted of two counts of use of a communication facility in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and one count of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin.

Terrence Dunlap was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and heroin.  He was attributed 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 100 grams or more of heroin.  He was also convicted of one count of use of a communications facility in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base.

As a result of the convictions, each of the defendants faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in federal prison.  United States District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis of Columbia presided over the trial and will impose a sentence on each of the defendants after receiving and reviewing pre-sentence reports prepared by the United States Probation Office. 

“Dismantling drug trafficking organizations is a continuing priority for the FBI,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Jody Norris.  “These verdicts are the results of the commitment and perseverance of our Agents and partners within the Violent Crime Task Force, to include the dedicated staff of the United States Attorney’s Office.  Together, we will continue to work to make South Carolina a safer and better place to live.” 

 “This is another example of why we need to allow state prisons to jam cell phone signals,” said South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling.  “Inmates are physically locked away behind bars, but with a contraband cell phone, they are virtually out amongst us. They are able to continue their criminal activity, and they keep wrecking lives in the process.”

This case was investigated by the FBI’s CVGTF, which is comprised of law enforcement officers from the FBI, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Columbia Police Department, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, Lexington Police Department, Sumter Police Department, and the South Carolina National Guard, with assistance from the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jane B. Taylor, Benjamin N. Garner, and Christopher D. Taylor of the Columbia office.

 

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Lance Crick (864) 282-2105
Updated August 23, 2019