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Press Release

Dubuque Meth User Sentenced to More Than Two Years in Federal Prison after Brandishing and Racking a Stolen Firearm

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa

A man who brandished and racked a stolen firearm during a disturbance outside an apartment complex in Dubuque, Iowa, in August 2018, was sentenced July 25, 2019, to over two years in federal prison.

Matthew Raymond Bills, age 35, from Dubuque, Iowa, received the prison term after a February 12, 2019, guilty plea to one count of possessing a firearm as a drug user.

In a plea agreement, Bills admitted he was in an argument with two other people outside an apartment complex in Dubuque on August 10, 2018.  During the argument, Bills displayed a handgun and racked it in a threatening manner, causing a round to eject.  When officers arrived at the scene, they found a live .380 round outside the apartment complex and confronted Bills.  Bills told the officers he had hidden the firearm in a closet in a room in the apartment building, and officers later found a loaded Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .380 ACP pistol in that location.  The firearm was stolen in Platteville, Wisconsin, less than a month before the argument.  Bills admitted he knew the firearm was stolen.  Bills knew he was a methamphetamine user at the time of the incident, which made it illegal under federal law for him to possess a firearm.  Bills had used marijuana on a daily basis since the age of 14 and had more recently begun using methamphetamine in an attempt to stop using marijuana.  Bills has prior convictions for driving under the influence of marijuana and for possessing marijuana while fishing.

Bills was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Bills was sentenced to 30 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.

Bills 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 Tim Vavricek and investigated by the Dubuque Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 19-CR-1003.

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Updated July 29, 2019

Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods