Drug kingpin Maurice Phillips' girlfriend gets 12 years

Chanell Cunningham was a key witness against Maurice Phillips, who was sentenced last week to five life terms. Her cooperation cut her prison time, the judge said.
Chanell Cunningham was a key witness against Maurice Phillips, who was sentenced last week to five life terms. Her cooperation cut her prison time, the judge said.
Posted: August 18, 2010

Chanell Cunningham, whose testimony helped convict her kingpin boyfriend of murder, was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison by a federal judge who said she spent years "styling and profiling" as a high-living underworld drug moll.

U.S. District Judge Curtis Joyner, in pointed comments to a courtroom packed with family members and friends, told Cunningham that were it not for her cooperation, he would have sentenced her to more than 30 years in prison.

He described the 37-year-old mother of two as a "major officer" and "vice president of personnel" for the multimillion-dollar cocaine-distribution network set up by her lover, Maurice Phillips.

Cunningham, originally from Southwest Philadelphia, lived for a time in a house in Sicklerville, Camden County, that she said Phillips used as a stash house for the millions of dollars in cash his drug operation generated.

Phillips, 39, was sentenced to five consecutive life terms by Joyner last week following his conviction on murder, drug dealing, conspiracy, and money-laundering charges.

Cunningham was one of the key witnesses against him during a three-month trial that ended earlier this year.

But her cooperation, Joyner said, had to be balanced against the major role she played in helping Phillips distribute thousands of kilograms of cocaine over an eight-year period beginning in 1999.

Cunningham and several family members in the courtroom, including her mother and her young daughter, were reduced to tears during the hearing.

But Joyner said the family support that he saw in his courtroom Tuesday had been rejected by Cunningham while she "hung out with the bad guys . . . lived with the bad guys . . . played with the bad guys."

"And now you sit here crying," Joyner said.

"You weren't crying then. You were styling and profiling."

During the trial, she testified that she was Phillips' girlfriend during most of his eight-year run as a cocaine kingpin. She admitted making major drug pickups, setting up deals with local drug traffickers, and helping Phillips count and launder millions of dollars.

Authorities have said a conservative estimate placed a value of $30 million on Phillips' operation, which stretched from Mexico to New York. Testimony during the trial indicated the actual value was much higher.

The couple drove expensive cars, lived in lavish homes, attended major sporting events, and took extravagant vacations while amassing tens of millions of dollars dealing cocaine, according to evidence and testimony.

Cunningham said Phillips used the slogan "Music, Sex, Millions" to describe his lifestyle. She said he once boasted that he had socked away $11 million from his drug business.

Phillips, who had a degree in accounting from Kean University in New Jersey, was raised in North Jersey but was living in Maryland with his wife at the time of his arrest three years ago.

Cunningham was one of two girlfriends who testified against him. Among other things, she said Phillips provided her with homes and cars and set up a fancy clothing boutique in Atlanta for her to run while he lived off-and-on with her before and after his marriage.

Cunningham agreed to cooperate after she, Phillips, and seven associates were indicted in 2007. She faced a sentencing-guideline range of 30 years to life after pleading guilty to drug, money-laundering, and conspiracy charges.

In addition to drug dealing, Phillips was convicted of three murder counts tied to the gangland-style slaying of Chineta Glanville, 50, of Wyndmoor.

Glanville, a convicted forger and money launderer who worked for several drug dealers, was introduced to Phillips by Cunningham. Glanville was a longtime family friend whom Cunningham described as an "aunt."

Glanville was killed in June 2002, a month after the FBI raided her home and confiscated records.

Cunningham said Phillips feared Glanville was cooperating. But she said it was nearly four years after the murder that Phillips admitted to her that he had Glanville killed.

Glanville's 29-year-old godson, who happened to be visiting her, was also killed by a hit man hired by Phillips. Like Cunningham, the hit man agreed to cooperate and testify for the government.


Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or ganastasia@phillynews.com.

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