Reynerio Rafael Romero, Jr., a 27-year-old validated gang member living in Pelion, pled guilty to trafficking cocaine second offense and was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge George M. McFaddin, Jr., Wednesday to 15 years in prison. Under South Carolina Law, Trafficking Cocaine Second Offense is classified as a serious, violent offense and “no parole.” In South Carolina, offenders must serve at least 85 percent of their total sentence.
Assistant Solicitor Luke Pincelli handled the prosecution for the Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office and Lexington County Sherriff Department’s Crime Reduction Unit handle the investigation of this case.
Solicitor Rick Hubbard commented: “The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department’s Crime Reduction Unit is committed to combating the cause of many violent crimes in Lexington County. The prosecution of drug cases connected to gang activity is extremely important in order to make our community safer. We have experienced far too many homicides and other violent crimes due to gang violence and drug activity. The Crime Reduction Unit’s work is invaluable, and their hard work is to be commended.”
In May of 2020, a vehicle was stopped for a traffic violation after leaving a location that was under surveillance for drug activity near Old Barnwell Road and Romero was located in the front passenger seat of the vehicle. Law enforcement detected an odor of marijuana in the vehicle that led to a search of the vehicle. Law enforcement recovered from the front passenger side of the vehicle a quantity of marijuana, approximately 13 grams of cocaine, and several multi-colored pills that tested positive for methamphetamine. Law enforcement also located a stolen Draco semiautomatic pistol with a loaded 30-round magazine in the trunk of the vehicle. After law enforcement advised Romero of his Miranda rights, he admitted to possessing the drugs.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement obtained a search warrant to access Romero’s cell phone. The search of the device revealed evidence of drug sales as well as numerous photos and videos that Romero previously posted on different social media applications for the purpose of advertising drug sales. Law enforcement also discovered posts that confirmed Romero’s gang affiliation.
During sentencing, Judge McFaddin considered the numerous opportunities Romero had been given in the past and his previous convictions related to drug dealing prior to issuing a sentence. Judge McFaddin noted that this was an especially puzzling situation because Romero continued to choose a criminal lifestyle despite his opportunities.
Romero will be transferred to the South Carolina Department of Corrections to begin the immediate service of his sentence.