Four Summerville men were sentenced to federal prison terms this week after having admitted to their roles in a methamphetamine distribution ring in Dorchester County.

In a statement released Wednesday, acting U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Kevin F. McDonald said the men admitted making and distributing meth between January 2007 and July 2008.

The charges arose after Dorchester County sheriff's deputies found meth labs in July 2008 at three residences in Summerville, McDonald said.

All four men were charged in May in a 15-count federal indictment for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine. All four pleaded guilty to the charge.

--Wendell Chinners Jr., 24, of Muskie Drive, who also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm while engaged in drug trafficking, was sentenced to 15 years.

--Ryan Kenneth Grooms, 34, of Embassy Drive, was sentenced to 13 years, 10 months.

--Charles Steven Weaver, 20, of Glenlivet Court, was sentenced to eight years.

--Jimmy Franklin King Jr., 20, of Twin Lakes Drive, was sentenced to five years. King also pleaded guilty to maintaining a residence for manufacturing methamphetamine, McDonald said.

The sentences were handed down Monday in federal court in Charleston by Chief U.S. District Judge David C. Norton, McDonald said. The case was investigated by agents of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Sheriff's Office.

Five other co-defendants named in the indictment have entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Modica, who handled the prosecution.

Several of the co-defendants served the conspiracy as runners, also known as "Smurfs," Modica said. The runners go to drug stores to purchase ingredients required for making meth, he said.

Chinners and two of the co-defendants awaiting sentencing also were arrested in February 2008 by Charleston County sheriff's deputies. A deputy tried to stop a car Chinners was driving for speeding. Chinners would not stop. A chase ensued that ended when stop-sticks were thrown on the road in front of the car. Deputies found a suitcase in the trunk that contained all the ingredients needed to cook methamphetamine. They also found methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and a revolver.

Modica said the group had spent that night cooking meth in a Savannah Highway motel room. Chinners pleaded guilty to the state charges from that incident, and that case was folded into the federal prosecution, Modica said.

Dorchester County sheriff's Sgt. Shawn Gibbons, a supervisor in the narcotics unit, said local agencies were happy to turn the case over to federal authorities. "They have the ability to work conspiracy cases better than we are able to with state laws," Gibbons said.

The stiff federal sentencing guidelines, with no possibility of parole, also send a message to the meth makers and dealers that are still in business, he said. "It may make somebody think twice next time."

Reach David W. MacDougall at or 937-5655.