Roger Mack Royal, 40, of North Wilkesboro, N.C., was sentenced to 188 months in prison for drug and gun charges, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell also ordered Royal to serve five years under court supervision after he is released from prison.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, in January 2019, Royal, his co-conspirator April Renee Hicks, and another defendant, Joshua Allen McCloud, trafficked methamphetamine in Wilkes and Caldwell counties and elsewhere in Western North Carolina. Law enforcement arrested Royal and Hicks on January 29, 2019, following a drug transaction that took place in a Walmart parking lot. Over the course of their arrest, law enforcement recovered a stolen firearm from Royal’s vehicle.

On May 19, 2020, Royal pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, four counts of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm by a felon. Court records indicate that Royal has over 40 state felony convictions in North and South Carolina. Due to his prior criminal convictions, Royal qualified for a sentencing enhancement as an armed career criminal.

Joshua McCloud was previously sentenced to 11 years in prison for drug and firearm offenses. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement recovered from McCloud’s residence two firearms, a 60-round drum magazine, 39 rounds of assorted ammunition, narcotics and drug paraphernalia. April Hicks was sentenced to 57 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and possession with intent to distribute and distribution of methamphetamine.

In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray credited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Wilkesboro Police Department, the North Wilkesboro Police Department, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office, the Boone Police Department, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, and the Yadkin County Sheriff’s office for the investigation of this case, and thanked each agency for their cooperation and coordination.

Assistant United States Attorney David Kelly, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the cases.

* * *

On Tuesday, October 13, 2020, the Justice Department announced it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), despite the challenges of COVID 19 and its impact on the criminal justice process. Of the more than 14,200 individuals charged in FY20, 267 defendants were charged in the Western District of North Carolina.

“Gun crimes are often committed by people prohibited from having guns in the first place,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “Together with our law enforcement partners, we are committed to protecting our communities by keeping guns out of the wrong hands, taking violent criminals off our streets, and prosecuting those who violate federal gun laws.”

Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase - firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense. The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence. Keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be a priority of the Department of Justice and we will use all appropriate, available means to keep the law abiding people of this country safe from gun crime.

For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473.