Large multi-state gun bust connected to search of Newport News home

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted a search at a Newport News home in the 1200 block of Hampton Avenue Wednesday.

Joseph Johnson

Sources tell News 3 it is connected to a gun trafficking operation between Virginia and New York.

According to a spokesperson with the city, four adult pit bulls and nine pit bull puppies - seven of which are about a week old, one that is six months old and one that is eight months old - were seized for inadequate care.

34-year-old Joseph Johnson and 25-year-old Brianna Glee of Virginia Beach were arrested at a separate location in Newport News earlier Wednesday.

Tyshon Stevens of Brooklyn was also arrested in Virginia on May 22.

An indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses the group of being part of a gun trafficking conspiracy that went on for more than a year.

It states they used straw buyers to buy more than 40 firearms from dealers in Virginia. Many of the guns were found in the New York area.

ATF and other law enforcement executed a search warrant Wednesday morning.

Records state Johnson is accused of using Facebook to sell the guns.

In one incident, the records say the buyer and Johnson were allegedly messaging back and forth.

Johnson is accused of writing, "Glocks are for serious accurate no fingerprint love... [p]lastic frame means no prints." The unidentified buyer allegedly wrote back, "That's for hits."

The documents say Johnson allegedly marketed firearms ranging from small, concealed carry-sized pistols to larger handguns with extended ammunition "clips."

Records state that Johnson is accused of contacting convicted felons and gang members about buying firearms.

Johnson is a felon and couldn't purchase guns himself, but could have others buy guns for him from legal gun dealers, according to the documents.

Below is part of a statement sent from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern District of New York:

“As alleged in the indictment, the defendants’ illegal trafficking of firearms put deadly weapons into the hands of criminals,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.

“This Office is working tirelessly with our partners to stop the flow of illegal firearms through the Interstate 95 corridor by individuals who traffic in firearms and the straw buyers who enable their business.”  Mr. Donoghue thanked the ATF and the NYPD’s Brooklyn South Gang Squad for their outstanding efforts during this investigation.

“The defendants allegedly took part in a scheme to traffic illegal firearms thus endangering the lives of each and every citizen on the street,” stated ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Benedict.

“ATF remains committed to combating violent crime by aggressively identifying, investigating, and arresting individuals who seek to put dangerous firearms into the hands of individuals that should not possess them.  I would like to thank the personnel from our multiagency cooperative working group at ATF’s New York Field Division Crime Gun Intelligence Center, ATF’s Washington Field Division and our local partners at NYPD’s Brooklyn South Gang Squad. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the United States Attorney’s Office for their work in prosecuting the case.”

“This case underscores some disturbing truths: Illegal guns proliferate and circulate in higher-crime neighborhoods that still need our help,” stated NYPD Commissioner O’Neill. “In lockstep with our federal partners at the ATF and the Eastern District, the NYPD will continue to perform the incredibly dangerous work of preventing these firearms from getting into criminals’ hands.”

Newport News Animal Services said one of the dogs taken from the home that was searched was seen by a vet for a minor condition.

Officials say this case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  

Sen. Tim Kaine says the operation isn't a surprise to him. "I think we've seen an uptick in these cases in Virginia where straw purchases are being done, often by felons," he said. "They find a way to make these purchases and then they sell the guns to New York and other places, where they're used to commit crimes."

Glee has a bond hearing on Monday in Norfolk.

Johnson and Stevens are expected to be extradited back to Brooklyn.

Officials say if convicted, Johnson and Stevens face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

Glee faces up to five years in prison on each count.