North Carolina man sentenced to more than six years in prison for drug, firearm charges

Published 7:08 am Wednesday, September 7, 2022

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A Wilmington man was sentenced August 23, 2022 to 74 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack) and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Eastern District of North Carolina. Rasul Gatford, 31, pleaded guilty to the charges on March 30, 2022.

According to court documents and other information presented in court, in October 2021, members of the Wilmington Police Department Vice and Narcotics Unit began an investigation into Gatford after receiving information concerning his drug trafficking activities. On October 28, 2021, Gatford was arrested by the Wilmington Police Department for distributing crack cocaine and, during his arrest, officers located a quantity of crack cocaine on Gatford’s person, according to the release. A search warrant of Gatford’s home also revealed an additional quantity of crack cocaine, marijuana, drug manufacturing equipment and a firearm.

At the time of this offense, Gatford was on federal supervised release for a 2013 conviction for using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and aiding and abetting (7:13-CR-10-1BO), stated the release.

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Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle. The FBI’s Coastal Carolina Safe Street’s Gang Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Wilmington Police Department investigated the case and Special Assistant United States Attorney William Van Trigt prosecuted. Van Trigt is a prosecutor with the New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Ben David has assigned him to the United States Attorney’s Office to prosecute federal violent crimes and other criminal matters, which has been made possible by a grant funded by New Hanover County, according to the release.

“This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone,” stated the release. “On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.”