ATF sting leads to arrests of 2 Virginia men

Story highlights

  • Two men arrested for allegedly selling machine guns and IEDs to an ATF agent
  • Some of the 20 machine guns are equipped with homemade silencers
Two men were arrested Friday in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for allegedly selling machine guns and improvised explosive devices to an undercover federal agent.
Leonard Davis and Christopher Phillips made brief court appearances and will remain jailed pending the outcome of detention hearings scheduled for Wednesday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said.
According to an affidavit supporting arrest warrants for the men, ATF Special Agent John Hansen said that, in August, he had received information from state and federal law enforcement agents that the two men possessed and had sold unregistered machine guns.
That led the ATF to conduct a sting operation during which an undercover agent purchased 15 improvised explosive devices and 20 machine guns, some with homemade silencers, the affidavit says. The agent allegedly bought them for more than $21,000 from Davis during meetings at his home in September and October.
The affidavit adds that Davis was in constant communication with Phillips, owner of a gun refinishing business called Combat Weapons Coatings of Virginia, in Virginia Beach, where the ATF alleges the weapons were produced. A call to the business was not immediately returned.
The men are facing charges of conspiring to possess and transfer unregistered machine guns. The affidavit says Davis faces an additional gun charge because he has a felony conviction and has not had his right to own weapons restored. The ATF also alleges marijuana was discovered at Davis' home.
ATF spokesman Mike Campbell said Davis was attempting to sell additional weapons to the undercover agent when he was arrested.
The document describes Davis as wearing body armor during meetings with the undercover operative and having claymore mines in cabinets in his house.
Davis allegedly told the undercover agent that some of his family members belong to a "prominent" motorcycle gang in California and he asked the man to "guarantee that none of the firearms or IED's would get into the hands of rival motorcycle gangs." The affidavit said the agent told Davis he planned to sell weapons to drug dealers. That statement allegedly prompted Davis to ask about the possibility of trading machine guns for marijuana.