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Press Release

Drug User Whose Mother Tried to Claim a Gun was Hers Sentenced to Federal Prison for Unlawfully Possessing the Gun

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Both Used and Sold Marijuana

A man who illegally possessed a gun was sentenced March 1, 2021, to more than three years in federal prison.

Thomas James Masengarb Vesey, age 21, from Hiawatha, Iowa, received the prison term after a September 17, 2020 guilty plea to being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Evidence at earlier hearings showed that police officers stopped Vesey while he was driving in Marion, Iowa.  After he pulled the car over, Vesey switched seats with a passenger before officers approached the car on foot.  Officers smelled marijuana and searched the car, finding marijuana and a gun with an obliterated serial number.  Vesey’s mother came to the scene of the traffic stop and attempted to take ownership of the gun until officers told her that they were aware that Vesey called her and that the call was recorded.  Vesey later admitted that he bought the gun after some of his friends had been murdered.  He also told law enforcement that he both used and sold marijuana. 

Vesey was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Vesey was sentenced to 37 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a three-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.  For more information about Project Guardian, please see /media/1122011/download?inline.

Vesey was released on the bond previously set and is to surrender to the United States Marshal’s Service on March 15, 2021.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Emily K. Nydle and investigated by the Marion Police Department, the Cedar Rapids Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 20-cr-00054.

Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.

Updated March 3, 2021

Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses