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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 10, 2019

Felon Pleads Guilty to Possessing Firearms and Witness Tampering

NORFOLK, Va. – A Virginia Beach man pleaded guilty today to felon in possession of five firearms and witness tampering.

“Prohibited persons who possess firearms are a significant danger to the safety of our communities,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Deaton, who is prohibited from possessing firearms as a previously convicted felon, conspired with his girlfriend to illegally straw purchase and traffick firearms for profit. Straw purchasing firearms literally arms criminals, and puts law enforcement and the law-abiding public in danger. My thanks to the brave women and men of the ATF for their assistance in investigating and prosecuting this case.”

According to information before the court, Christopher Allen Deaton, 21, a previously convicted felon, was part of a straw-purchasing and gun-trafficking scheme in which he had his girlfriend purchase five handguns for him, so he could resell them at a profit to out-of-state buyers. He drove with his girlfriend to the gun store, told her which guns and ammo to buy, and directed her to commit multiple felonies by lying about being the actual buyer of the guns on a federal form regulating gun transactions. He then took possession of the handguns. 

While in jail on unrelated crimes, Deaton used the jail phone to convince his girlfriend not to cooperate with federal agents or testify in the proceedings against him. He started witness-tampering hours after ATF agents met him at a jail visit to discuss his knowledge about the criminal scheme.

Deaton pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms and witness tampering. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when sentenced on September 3. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division, made the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson is prosecuting 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. 2:19-cr-37.

Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Contact: 
Joshua Stueve Director of Communications joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov
Updated May 10, 2019