PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Virginia State Police are investigating whether applications submitted by felons to restore their rights to purchase guns used fake utility bills to verify their residency, according to a search warrant filed in Portsmouth Circuit Court.
The process for felons to restore gun rights in Virginia involves multiple steps. A felon has to be completely done serving their sentence and probation.
Then, they ask the governor to restore their civil rights. If that happens, they then can petition the circuit court where they live to be granted their rights back.
"It's discretionary to a court and the judge can certainly say no," said Tim Anderson, an attorney and state delegate.
Part of the process involves proving where you live.
The search warrant said some felons were submitting bills from Dominion Energy, Cox and Hampton Roads Sanitation District to verify their addresses, but the court documents said the bills appeared irregular and "manipulated by a computer."
Four people identified as witnesses identified the same man as the one who helped them create their applications and gave them fake utility bills, according to the search warrant. In exchange, the man got up to $1,000, according to court records.
Last month, police searched the man's home and seized five computer devices. News 3 is not naming the man as he is not currently facing charges.
News 3 spoke with the man on Wednesday, who denied doing anything fraudulent.
"Portsmouth is a jurisdiction that has developed a reputation for being more lenient in giving people their gun rights back than other jurisdictions, so there have been circumstances where people try to file their petitions in Portsmouth based on those rumors," Anderson said.
Anderson said it's important to follow the restoration process correctly.
"Here's the thing, there has to be a path back. If you're a convicted felon and you've paid your debt to society, at some point your debt has been paid in full and you should be able to be brought back into normal operating procedures," Anderson said.
State Police declined to comment, citing the open investigation.
The man under investigation said he plans to contact an attorney in the event he faces charges.