(STL.News) – Naeem Branch, 39, of Knightdale was sentenced today to 70 months in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
According to information provided to the court, on March 22, 2018, North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agents were conducting surveillance at the Pit Stop II, a convenience store on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh. Agents noticed a car at the back of the parking lot with two occupants who were leaning back in their seats. After ten minutes, a man, later identified as Branch, drove into the parking lot in a blue Sonata and parked beside the car with the two men. Agents watched Branch get in the back seat of the other car and lean forward as the two men leaned back. They appeared to exchange something, and branch immediately left the vehicle, with the total interaction taking approximately 45 seconds. Branch drove away, and believing they had witnessed a drug transaction, the agents conducted an investigatory traffic stop on him.
When agents asked for Branch’s license and registration, they noticed that his hands were shaking and that he seemed unusually nervous. When Branch leaned over to retrieve his registration, the agent saw a digital scale and glassine bag peeking out from Branch’s right jacket pocket. Branch proceeded to twice hand over irrelevant documents as his hands shook uncontrollably.
Agents ordered him from the car and detained him. Searching the car, they found small rocks of suspected crack cocaine on the car floor. And under the driver’s seat, they found a Ruger SR-9 nine millimeter handgun, loaded with sixteen rounds of ball ammunition. Branch could not legally possess firearms or ammunition due to prior felony convictions, including a 2015 conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon and a 2016 conviction for possession of cocaine.
Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan. Alcohol Law Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jake D. Pugh prosecuted the case.