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Press Release

Drug User Sentenced to Nearly Five Years in Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing Two Guns

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Had a Sawed-Off Shotgun in the Car and a Handgun in His Hotel Room

An illegal user of methamphetamine and marijuana who left a sawed-off shotgun in the car, but carried a handgun into a hotel was sentenced January 8, 2020, to almost five years in federal prison.

Adrian Zarate, age 26, from Waterloo, Iowa, received the prison term after an August 21, 2019, guilty plea to unlawfully possessing a sawed-off shotgun.

At the guilty plea, Zarate admitted he illegally possessed a sawed-off shotgun that he knew had been cut short on October 11, 2018.  On that day, Zarate and his girlfriend drove her car to a hotel in Waterloo.  They went and checked into the hotel.  Zarate left the sawed-off shotgun in his girlfriend’s car.  The shotgun could be seen in the car from the outside.  Zarate and his girlfriend took a backpack with a handgun in it into the hotel.

Waterloo police received a tip that Zarate had the shotgun.  Officers located the car in the hotel parking lot, saw the sawed-off shotgun, and went to Zarate’s room.  Officers eventually searched the room and found the handgun, which had an obliterated serial number and was loaded with six bullets, two glass pipes with meth residue, shotgun shells, and a large knife.  Officers seized the sawed-off shotgun from the car.  They also found an axe, a machete, handgun magazines, and a digital scale with meth residue in the car.  Zarate later tested positive for meth and marijuana.

Zarate was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Zarate was sentenced to 57 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a five-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).  PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. The United States Attorney’s Office has prosecuted this case with support from the following Project Guardian partners: [list partners here]. For more information about Project Guardian, please see /media/1122011/download?inline.

Zarate is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Morfitt and was investigated by a Federal Task Force composed of the Waterloo Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms assisted by the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office and Cedar Falls Police Department. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 18-cr-2073.

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Updated January 9, 2020

Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods