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NEW BERN – William Charlie Collins was sentenced to 95 months in custody followed by three years of supervised probation Tuesday on two counts of felon in possession of a firearm.

The 32-year-old St. Pauls man had pled guilty to the charges in September and was sentenced in the Eastern District of North Carolina federal court by U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan.

According to court record, on Feb. 28, 2017, an officer with the St. Pauls Police Department observed Collins place a handgun in the trunk of a vehicle. Once he saw the officer, Collins immediately shut the vehicle’s trunk. The officer approached the vehicle’s owner and obtained consent to search. A search of the vehicle resulted in the seizure of a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, containing nine rounds of ammunition in a 15-round magazine, which was located under a mat in the vehicle’s trunk.

When interviewed, Collins admitted to possessing the firearm and was released.

Later that day, law enforcement became aware of a breaking and entering that occurred at a St. Pauls residence in which two firearms were stolen. The investigation determined that the stolen 9mm semiautomatic handgun was the same handgun found in Collins’ possession. Also stolen was a .22-250 caliber rifle.

Soon after Collins was located by law enforcement and placed under arrest, he advised officers that the stolen rifle was stored at his girlfriend’s residence in St. Pauls. A subsequent search of the residence located the stolen rifle in the attic. Collins previously was convicted of a felony crime of violence.

This case was part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative which encourages federal, state, and local agencies to cooperate in a unified “team effort” against gun crime, targeting repeat offenders who continually plague their communities.

The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Pauls Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted the criminal investigation of this case. Assistant United States Attorney S. Katherine Burnette handled the prosecution of this case for the government.

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