ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Today U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger provided an update on the status of Project Guardian-DMV, our strategic effort to reduce violent crime and further enforce federal firearms laws across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV).
“Criminals in the DMV have been on notice that we are federally serious about illegal firearms offenses,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The prosecutors of the Eastern District, in conjunction with ATF and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, have redoubled our efforts to combat straw purchasing, firearms trafficking, and use of a firearm during a drug trafficking or violent crime offense, pursuant to Project Guardian-DMV.”
During Fiscal Year 2020, from Oct. 1, 2019 through Sept. 30, 2020, the Alexandria Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged over 60 defendants with firearms-related offenses, including straw purchases, illegal possession of firearms by previously convicted felons and other prohibited persons, and carrying, brandishing, or discharging a firearm during a crime of violence or in relation to a drug trafficking offense. These defendants were involved in the unlawful purchase and/or possession of over 200 firearms, of which more than 85 firearms have been recovered and seized by law enforcement.
Project Guardian is the Justice Department’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. Click here for more information about Project Guardian.
Project Guardian-DMV localizes the Justice Department’s national effort, and expands upon the current partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the District of Columbia and the Eastern District of Virginia, the ATF, and Metro Police Department, and now also includes the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Maryland and the Western District of Virginia, and the Virginia State Police.
Recent Project Guardian-DMV cases
Ndjongo, of Bowie, Maryland, and his then-girlfriend, Jordon, of Alexandria, conspired to straw purchase 31 firearms from Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs) in Virginia. Jordon purchased six of the firearms at FFLs in Virginia. Ndjongo used Jordon’s name to order the remaining firearms online from an FFL located in North Carolina, and had these firearms shipped to various FFLs in Virginia. Once the firearms arrived in Virginia, Jordon picked up the firearms and gave them to Ndjongo, who sought to sell the firearms to other individuals. Local law enforcement in Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland have recovered two of the firearms unlawfully purchased during this conspiracy, both of which had altered or destroyed serial numbers. The whereabouts of the remaining 29 firearms are unknown.
In July 2019, Tolliver, of Woodbridge, a previously convicted felon, unlawfully possessed and fired a SigSauer semi-automatic pistol during a gang-related shootout at a recording studio in Alexandria. Surveillance video footage captured two masked individuals exit a vehicle and fire at a vehicle occupied by Tolliver and his associates. Video captured Tolliver fire his pistol at the masked individuals before police responded to the scene to find Tolliver and an associate wounded by gunfire. On August 13, Tolliver was sentenced to over four years in prison for his involvement in the shootout.
Lamph, of Fredericksburg, pleaded guilty on September 25 to lying on an ATF form in the course of straw-purchasing seven firearms for a convicted felon and criminal street gang member. Following the recovery of a firearm by the Metropolitan Police Department that had been purchased just one week prior, ATF agents reviewed firearm transaction records and determined that Lamph, 22, had purchased that firearm and numerous others from federal firearms licensees in December 2019. For each firearm that he purchased, Lamph certified on ATF Form 4473 that he was the actual transferee / buyer. However, the ATF’s investigation revealed that Lamph had in fact purchased seven of those firearms on behalf of another individual he knew to be a convicted felon and criminal street gang member in exchange for money. Lamph pleaded guilty to making a false statement with respect to information required to be kept in the records of a federal firearms licensee. Lamph faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on December 11.
On September 29, Sungur, of Fairfax, pleaded guilty today to dealing in firearms without a license. Beginning around March 2019 through March 2020, Sungur engaged in the business of dealing in firearms through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms. Among the firearms that he sold and advertised for sale were homemade pistols devoid of serial numbers or other unique identifiers, commonly known as “ghost guns.” Sungur explained to prospective customers that he charged a premium for such pistols because he made them, because they lacked serial numbers, and because they could not be linked to any previous criminal activities. Sungur also sold weapons on multiple occasions to undercover detectives with the Fairfax County Police Department’s Organized Crime & Intelligence Bureau, who had learned he was selling firearms. Over the course of four separate transactions, he sold detectives more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, magazines, and numerous firearms – some of which were “ghost guns” – in exchange for cash. On two of these occasions, Sungur also sold detectives 3D-printed machine gun conversion devices that, after installation, enabled semi-automatic firearms to fire fully-automatically. Following his arrest, Homeland Security Investigations executed a search warrant at his residence and discovered that he was in possession of additional materials and kits used to manufacture ghost guns, additional ammunition, additional magazines, a 3D printer, and an additional firearm. Sungus faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on December 16.
More information on Project Guardian in EDVA can be found here.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.