Two Lancaster Residents Sentenced for Their Role in National Guard Armory Firearms Theft
Columbia, South Carolina —- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Austin Lee Ritter, age 23, and Kimberly Denise Cannon, age 40, both of Lancaster, South Carolina, each were sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty in June to being a felon in possession of firearms and to possession of machineguns and destructive device not registered to them.
Evidence presented in court established that in 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 Colt, model M-16, 5.56mm machineguns; two 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.
After the traffic stop, Ritter and co-defendant Brandon Shane Polston, who has also pled guilty to federal charges and will be sentenced on December 14, 2018, were found in a Lancaster motel in possession of a small quantity of methamphetamine. A review of surveillance video from the motel showed Ritter, Cannon, and Polston bringing bags containing the firearms back and forth between the vehicle and the motel room. Searches of their cell phones revealed various photos and text messages relating to the firearms and sale of the firearms.
An investigation revealed that Polston stole the firearms from the Lancaster National Guard Armory and then directed Cannon to take him and Ritter to an area near the Armory, where they retrieved the firearms and other items from a ditch and placed them in their car, later transporting them to the motel. Some of the stolen firearms were later recovered in possession of other felons in the area, while other firearms remain missing.
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 from a North Carolina conviction at the time of this incident, has prior convictions for shoplifting, assault and battery, and obtaining property by false pretenses.
United States District Judge Michelle Childs of Columbia sentenced Ritter to 87 months in federal prison with 3 years of supervised release to follow. Cannon was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison with 3 years of supervised release to follow. There is no parole in the federal system.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Lancaster Police Department, and the South Carolina 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. Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes of the Columbia office handled the case.
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