Emmanuel Ndjongo lives in Maryland, but in 2018, he was dating a woman from Virginia. That romantic relationship became a business partnership that took advantage of the Commonwealth’s more lax gun laws to buy weapons he then resold on the street.

Alexus Jordon, 23, pleaded guilty in Alexandria federal court last month to buying 31 guns on her boyfriend’s behalf. Ndjongo pleaded guilty Friday. Both are scheduled to be sentenced in March.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia is touting the case as a hallmark of a new initiative called Project Guardian, aimed at combating gun crime with better coordination between federal and local authorities.

“We have to choke off the source of supply,” U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) recently named Virginia as a primary source state for guns used in crimes in the District. Terwilliger said he has seen many similar cases where women buy guns for men who cannot legally purchase them.

“I do believe in deterrence,” he said, particularly for people who are tempted to straw-purchase guns not for profit but for personal reasons.

One of the guns Ndjongo sold was recovered by Prince George’s County police in February during an investigation into a drive-by shooting, according to court records. Another was recovered by police a few months later in the District, authorities said. Both guns had the serial numbers scratched off, but police were able to restore both and trace them to purchases made by Jordon at gun stores in Virginia.

It is not yet clear where all the weapons ended up; some were seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives before they were delivered.

“Trying to recover the guns will be difficult,” Terwilliger said.

Defense attorney Robert Jenkins, who represents Ndjongo, said his client knew he was breaking the law “but didn’t fully appreciate the gravity of what he was doing.”

“He’s just a young college student who saw an opportunity to make some money,” Jenkins said.

The federal public defender’s office, which represents Jordon, declined to comment.

ATF had already been investigating Jordon after a report from a gun store in Woodbridge about the number of guns she had bought in a short period of time. Jordon bought the guns in three months of 2018, according to court records.

When asked by the owner of the website Classic Firearms why she was having guns shipped to so many different stores, Jordon said she liked trying them out at different ranges. Jordon later admitted she was letting Ndjongo buy firearms online under her name as well as buying some directly for him.

Ndjongo, who was 20 at the time of the purchases, was not old enough to buy a firearm on his own.

She “explained that [he] asked her to buy firearms for him because she was a Virginia resident and because firearms were easy to acquire in the state of Virginia,” according to an affidavit.

“We got all the guns,” Ndjongo texted Jordon in January 2018, according to the court records. “We in business.”

In a statement, D.C. police said that while the case was prosecuted under Project Guardian, “we have a long history of partnering with ATF in these types of cases and work closely with them frequently.”

Terwilliger said that where previously ATF might send a “cease and desist” letter to someone suspected of straw purchasing, his office is now pursuing every viable criminal prosecution — “even if it’s one gun, one time.”

With control of both the legislature and the governorship for the first time in decades, Democrats in Virginia are seeking to pass tighter gun regulations, including universal background checks, bans on military-style weapons and limits on how many guns a person can buy in a month. Bowser is encouraging those efforts, while opponents are planning to gather in armed protest.

Terwilliger said he is barred by Justice Department policy from commenting on pending legislation.

“I am committed to enforcing the firearms laws that we have,” he said.