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Man stopped at Fort Bragg gate pleads guilty for handgun possession and trafficking marijuana

A 30-year-old civilian who was stopped at Fort Bragg’s All American Gate gate in mid-May pleaded guilty Friday to possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Matthew E. Carlton was stopped by authorities when he tried to bring a blue Mercedes coupe onto the North Carolina military installation at 2:20 a.m. on May 14, according to an affidavit signed by a Fort Bragg provost marshall’s office investigator.

“The car hesitated a number of times before reaching the gate and was inspected because the driver was acting extremely nervous, indicated he wanted to turn around, and did not have a military identification card,” the investigator wrote in the court records.

Inside the Mercedes, which records state was registered to Carlton, authorities found a Ruger P85 loaded with an extended magazine and 20 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, according to the Army investigator.

“[A military policeman] later told me the firearm was not visible unless one knelt down to look under the seat, but that the firearm was positioned with the handle facing the front of the vehicle,” the investigator wrote.

A retail shopping bag was also found in the Mercedes’ trunk that contained three bags of marijuana totaling approximately 162 grams. The bags “appeared to have come from a dispensary, along with two mason jars of what appeared to be marijuana, a digital scale … and a number of small, empty, individual plastic bags that looked to be designed for carrying marijuana for sale,” the affidavit reads.

Authorities also found $2,208 in the Mercedes and a piece of paper that had names, prices, phone numbers and math scrawled over it, which the investigator said he believed documented drug sales.

Court records did not detail whether any of the names and phone numbers belonged to soldiers on Fort Bragg. Post officials referred a request for comment to Army CID, who declined to comment.

“Your question is part of an ongoing criminal investigation,” said Army CID spokesman Chris Grey. “To protect the integrity of the investigative process, we are not releasing any further information at this time.”

Carlton told authorities he was in the Fayetteville area to visit someone who could perform work on his Mercedes. The cash found in the vehicle was to pay for the car work and the marijuana was for personal use, Carlton told the investigator. He made a wrong turn and wound up driving into Fort Bragg’s gate, he added.

“In general, he was evasive and unclear in his answers. When asked where he was coming from, he gave evasive answers and mentioned Camp Lejeune and Virginia,” the affidavit reads. “When asked whether he was on parole or had prior criminal history, he said, ‘No.’ When asked about the gun, he said, ‘It’s a friend’s gun, it’s not mine.‘”

New York state records indicated Carlton was on parole and was previously convicted of robbery and criminal possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to five years in prison in August 2014.

following his run-in with Fort Bragg authorities, Carlton ultimately pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking and weapons-related offenses. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 60 months in prison and is due back in court Nov. 3.

Carlton’s guilty plea was not publicly viewable among his federal court records.

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