Crime & Courts

SC inmate helped run drug trafficking ring using cell phone from prison, jury says

5 problems facing South Carolina’s prisons

Underfunded and understaffed, South Carolina's prisons have a lot of problems. Here are the five main issues facing the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
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Underfunded and understaffed, South Carolina's prisons have a lot of problems. Here are the five main issues facing the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

An inmate at one of South Carolina’s prisons helped run a drug trafficking ring using a contraband mobile phone from his cell, a jury found Friday.

Glenn Pernell, an inmate at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, was convicted on federal charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and heroin,” according to a release from United States Attorney Sherri Lydon’s office.

Pernell, 41, was convicted of the charges, which carry a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence alongside four co-conspirators: Whitney Pernell, 29, Fatima Ford, 33, Santerrio Smith, 31 and Terrence Dunlap, 25, according to the release.

The Pernells are brother and sister from Marion County and Ford is their cousin, also from Marion County, according to the release. Smith and Dunlap are from Columbia, according to the release.

The FBI’s Columbia Violent Gang Task Force penetrated the ring by wiretapping Smith’s phone in 2016 and discovering that one of his primary suppliers was Glenn Pernell, who was communicating using a contraband cell phone in prison, according to the release.

Agents discovered Pernell was using family and friends to make drug runs for him while he was behind bars.

The more than 11 pounds of cocaine and 2 pounds of heroin the ring was convicted of trafficking ended up on the Columbia streets, the release said.

Those drugs have a total street value of at least $193,000, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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

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