United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced Monday that after a 3-day trial and 2 hours of deliberation, a federal jury found Dayquan O’Neal Phillips, 23, of Lexington County, guilty of 10 counts: four counts of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, 3 counts of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime, 2 counts of Distribution of Cocaine, and 1 count of Distribution of Cocaine and Marijuana. United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Columbia presided over the trial and will sentence Phillips after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.
Evidence presented during the trial showed that on 4 separate occasions between May 10, 2018, and May 25, 2018, Philips sold or planned to sell more than $10,000 worth of firearms and distribution-level amounts of cocaine and marijuana to a confidential informant (CI) working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The case began as a proactive investigation after ATF determined Phillips was selling drugs and firearms together out of Lexington County. ATF captured each of the sales with audio and video surveillance equipment.
On May 10, 2018, Phillips sold 2.55 grams of cocaine, 64 grams of marijuana, and a 9mm pistol. One day later, Phillips sold 27.3 grams of cocaine and a loaded .357 magnum revolver pistol. About 1 week later, on May 17, Phillips sold 57 grams of cocaine and a loaded .380 Bersa pistol. Finally, on May 25, Phillips planned to sell 57 grams of cocaine and a .380 Jiminez pistol, but moments before the sale, Phillips and the CI planned and executed a fake robbery of the CI, after which Phillips and the CI planned to split the more than $4,600 of ATF-provided funds the CI was carrying.
Based on their monitor of the surveillance equipment, ATF and local law enforcement responded to the fourth sale fearing the CI had been robbed and kidnapped. Agents soon recovered the surveillance equipment on a roadside near Phillips’ residence and uncovered the plans for the fake robbery. The CI was then federally indicted and arrested for theft of government funds. More than $4,000 in U.S. currency was recovered at Phillips’ arrest.
Taken together, Phillips sold or planned to sell 143.5 grams of cocaine, 64 grams of marijuana, and 4 firearms to the ATF CI. In addition, at the time of his arrest, Phillips was seeking a Mac-10 pistol and an AK-47 to sell to the ATF CI.
At trial, the Government presented video and audio recordings of each sale and the fake robbery; the drugs, firearms, and ammunition Phillips sold or planned to sell; and equipment Phillips used in his drug trafficking operation. The jury also reviewed text messages from Phillips’ phone that corroborated his trade in drugs and firearms. Witnesses included agents from the ATF, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, and Lexington County Police Department, as well as Phillips and the CI.
Federal law prohibits Phillips from possessing firearms and ammunition based on a prior state felony drug distribution conviction and a state unlawful carrying of a pistol conviction.
For the Felon in Possession of a Firearm convictions, Phillips faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison, a fine of $250,000, and 3 years of supervised release. For the Distribution of Cocaine convictions, Phillips faces up to 20 years in federal prison. For the Distribution of Marijuana conviction, Phillips faces up to 10 years in federal prison. For the Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime convictions, taken together, Phillips faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in federal prison, consecutive to any additional sentence he receives.
This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), 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.
The case was investigated by agents and officers of the ATF, Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, and Batesburg-Leesville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys William Camden Lewis and Elliott B. Daniels of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.