ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WRIC) — Over the past year, multiple firearm violations have passed through the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA), ultimately resulting in hundreds of charges and confiscated guns.
EDVA announced this week that since the start of 2022, United States Attorney’s Office for the region has charged approximately 250 defendants with federal firearms offenses and forfeited over 164 illegal firearms. According to EDVA, guns that are forfeited are relinquished to the government for disposal or returned to a rightful owner, which often stops cycles of violence in the future.
“Removing illegal firearms from the hands of felons and other prohibited people is a significant tactic in our office’s efforts to reduce gun violence and keep our communities safe,” Jessica D. Aber, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said. “If not taken out of circulation, the same weapon can be passed along and used in multiple crimes by many people. The forfeiture of these illegal firearms ensures they will not be used in the future against our law enforcement partners or community members.”
Charges that went through EDVA over the past year included possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, using false statements to buy a firearm and buying unregistered firearms, including machine guns. There were also several 2022 cases related to straw purchasing of a firearm, which is when someone that is not able to buy a firearm — like a felon — recruits someone else to purchase it for them.
Some cases in the Eastern District this year were related not only to illegal firearm trafficking, but also drug trafficking. In one case, Jonathan Long of Hampton was charged with possession of firearms by a convicted felon in addition to drug conspiracy, possession of over 40 grams of fentanyl with intent to distribute and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Long will be tried in 2023 and faces a minimum of 35 years in prison.
Some of EDVA’s efforts to seize and forfeit illegal firearms this year were the result of multiple long-standing investigative programs by the U.S. Department of Justice targeting violence and drug prevention. This includes Project Safe Neighborhoods, which seeks to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the communities and develop solutions to address them.
Another program is the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, which is dedicated to identifying and dismantling drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations. According to EDVA, these types of organizations are primarily responsible for the country’s illegal drug supply.