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Press Release

Convicted Felon Sentenced for Possessing Firearms During Civil Unrest

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – A previously convicted felon was sentenced today to 54 months in prison and 2 years supervised release for his possession of an assault rifle, handgun, ballistic vest, and eight magazines of ammunition after leaving the Robert E. Lee Monument during civil unrest here on June 12.

According to court documents, Matthew Lee Frezza, 37, of Chesterfield, possessed an assault rifle and handgun during the course of a traffic stop during civil unrest. The incident started when Richmond Police Department (RPD) officers observed a caravan of three trucks driving recklessly in the vicinity of the Robert E. Lee Monument. Based on this reckless driving, RPD officers executed a traffic stop on one of the pickup trucks at the intersection of Old Mill Road and Boatwright Road in the city of Richmond. Upon approaching the truck, RPD officers observed three occupants inside, with an individual later identified as Frezza in the front passenger seat of the truck. RPD officers further observed all three occupants of the truck armed with firearms, including assault rifles.

Based on the firearms and the vehicles prior presence at the Robert E. Lee Monument, RPD Officers requested the three occupants step out of the truck. As Frezza exited the truck, RPD officers took an assault rifle from his possession, removed a handgun and two clips from a holster on his thigh, and removed a ballistic vest from his body that contained six rifle magazines with ammunition. On the scene, RPD Officers determined that Frezza was a convicted felon and placed him under arrest. The firearm possessed by Frezza was a Taurus, Model G3, 9mm caliber, semi-automatic pistol. The assault rifle possessed by Frezza was later determined to be a homemade rifle without a serial number, which contained a loaded, high-capacity magazine.

This case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’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.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Washington Field Division; William C. Smith, Chief of Richmond Police; and David W. Archey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric S. Siebert prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:20-cr-78.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Public Affairs

Updated December 10, 2020

Project Guardian
Firearms Offenses