COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA — Caleb York Rowell, age 30, of Swansea, South Carolina, and Brandi Leann Clarke, a/k/a “Brandi Savage,” age 26, of Gaston, South Carolina, were both sentenced today in federal court for their roles in a drug conspiracy where they sold firearms and drugs to confidential informants and undercover agents in the summer of 2021. Rowell was sentenced to 292 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin and fentanyl, felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a short-barreled shotgun not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Clark was sentenced to 57 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine.
Evidence presented to the Court showed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) began an investigation into Rowell’s drug distribution in May of 2021. During a recorded call with a confidential informant on May 11, 2021, Rowell bragged about running away from a traffic stop the day before that resulted in a wreck and how officers found his drugs and gun. ATF confirmed that the day before, May 10, 2021, Gaston Police Department had been in a car chase after they attempted to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation. That chase culminated in the driver wrecking the vehicle and fleeing on foot. Along the route where the driver fled, officers were able to locate a fanny pack containing bags of heroin and fentanyl and nearby they found a stolen pistol. Through the recorded call and witnesses at the scene, officers were then able to identify Rowell, who was wearing a state court ankle monitor, as the driver who fled from the scene and discarded the drugs and firearm.
Thereafter, between May and July 2021, law enforcement made a series of undercover purchases of firearms, heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine from Rowell and Clark, Rowell’s girlfriend. One of the firearms sold by Rowell to the undercover agent was an unregistered short-barreled shotgun. Both Rowell and Clark admitted knowing the drugs contained fentanyl and during one transaction, Clark boasted about the quality of the drugs to the undercover agent. Additionally, the investigation revealed that Rowell was a member of a gang, although he disputed membership.
Both Rowell and Clark are prohibited from possessing firearms based upon prior felony convictions in state court. Rowell has prior state convictions for criminal domestic violence, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, failure to stop for blue light and siren, driving under suspension 3rd offense, and two convictions for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Clark has two prior state convictions for possession of methamphetamine.
United States District Judge Sherri A. Lydon sentenced Rowell to a total of 292 months imprisonment, to be followed by a 6-year term of court-ordered supervision and a $500 special assessment fee. Clark was sentenced to a total of 57 months imprisonment, to be followed by a 6-year term of court-ordered supervision with a $100 special assessment fee. There is no parole in the federal system. In sentencing the defendants, the court noted the seriousness of the offense, especially since it involved fentanyl, which has shown to be deadly, and noted, “I take all my cases seriously, but when fentanyl is involved, the need to protect the public is critical.”
This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) with assistance of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, Gaston Police Department, Swansea Police Department, and the Richland County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey D. Haynes prosecuted the case.
Brook Andrews, First Assistant United States Attorney, email@example.com, (803) 929-3000