Man was arrested in 2006 undercover operation

A Charleston drug dealer will spend the rest of his life in prison after he was found guilty of trafficking nearly 18 pounds of cocaine — enough to fill 8,600 tiny sugar packets.

Eric K. Ancrum, 36, was convicted Thursday following a 2 1/2-day trial. Authorities believe he was part of a drug ring that brought up to 40 pounds of cocaine into Charleston each week via a pipeline from Atlanta.

The 8 kilograms Ancrum was caught with was enough to keep a portion of the Charleston drug market fueled for more than a week, said Heidi Drake, a former Charleston County narcotics investigator. The cash value of the drug was estimated into the many hundreds of thousands of dollars, police said, depending on how much it was diluted. Ancrum was arrested in February 2006 at an apartment complex off Sam Rittenberg Boulevard in West Ashley, where undercover police had been watching people come and go.

Ninth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Nathan Williams said the apartment was in a girlfriend's name but that Ancrum used it as his cocaine business office.

Ancrum was convicted of several offenses, including trafficking cocaine and crack and possession with intent to distribute near a school. His defense team argued the cocaine wasn't his. They also contended a life sentence without the possibility of parole was cruel and unusual punishment.

The sentence imposed by Circuit Judge George James came, in part, because Ancrum has a history of drug convictions dating to the 1990s.