Source: United States Attorneys General 11
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA —Tavius Cortez Wiggins, a/k/a “Black,” 30, of Columbia was sentenced to nine years in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Evidence presented in court showed that on July 30, 2019, an officer with the South Carolina Highway Patrol conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle for speeding on Interstate 95 in Florence County. Upon contact, the trooper noticed a strong odor of marijuana emanating from within the vehicle and determined the driver did not have a valid driver’s license. Wiggins was a passenger. The trooper separated the three occupants of the vehicle, and responses to the trooper’s questions led the officer to believe there was evidence of criminal conduct in the vehicle.
A search of the vehicle produced cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and three firearms, one of which was stolen, plus ammunition and extended ammunition magazines. The firearms included a loaded .40 caliber handgun with an extended magazine, a loaded 9mm handgun, and a .22LR caliber firearm with a 125-round drum magazine attached.
FBI received information that Wiggins was facilitating the commercial sexual exploitation of a female passenger in the vehicle, that he supplied her with drugs, and that prior to the traffic stop he pointed a firearm at her head multiple times. The government presented other evidence at sentencing that Wiggins was involved in human trafficking: witnesses disclosed to the FBI that Wiggins prostituted women at hotels in the Columbia area, and that he did so by using physical violence, pointing firearms, and by withholding drugs causing “dope sickness.” At sentencing, Wiggins contested that evidence but conceded that the Government had enough evidence to support a sentencing enhancement based on that conduct.
Wiggins was prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms and ammunition based on numerous prior felony convictions, including trafficking crack cocaine, possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, two burglary convictions related to home invasions, escape from custody, identity fraud, and resisting arrest. Wiggins’s convictions began in 2008 and they also include multiple drug possession convictions.
United States District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs sentenced Wiggins to 9 years in prison on a charge that carried a maximum of 10 years in prison, to be followed by a three-year term of court-ordered supervision. There is no parole in the federal system.
This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, 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 the FBI with assistance from the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorney Elliott B. Daniels prosecuted the case.