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Press Release

Previously Convicted Felon Pleads Guilty to Heroin and Gun Crimes

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

NORFOLK, Va. – A Norfolk man pleaded guilty today to trafficking heroin while armed.

According to court documents, Vernon Lewis Petway, 39, a convicted felon, was caught in possession of roughly 97 grams of heroin and a firearm after transporting the heroin by bus from New York City into Norfolk.

The case is part of Operation Sand Dragon, a joint operation run by the Norfolk Police Department with assistance from the DEA, ATF, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Chesapeake Police Department.  After an eight-month-long investigation, law enforcement arrested 44 suspects for their roles in distributing drugs. Twelve of the suspects were involved in gang activity, which was a major focus of the investigation. During the investigation, law enforcement recovered roughly 11 ounces of heroin, three pounds of cocaine, three pounds of marijuana, 24 ecstasy pills, and nine grams of methamphetamine. The total street value of the drugs was over $190,000. Law enforcement also recovered 12 firearms and over $85,000 in cash.

Petway pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug-trafficking crime. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of life when sentenced on November 15. 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), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Larry D. Boone, Chief of Norfolk Police Department, Scott W. Hoernke, Acting Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division, Thomas L. Chittum, III, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division, Michael K. Lamonea, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Norfolk, and Col. K.L. Wright, Chief of Chesapeake Police, made the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller 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 is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:18-cr-34.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Communications

Updated August 7, 2018

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses