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Press Release

Former Medical Student Sentenced to Over Seven Years in Federal Prison for Selling Guns to a Felon

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Also Tried to Hire a Hitman to Kill Professor and Girlfriend’s Ex-Boyfriend

A former medical student who sold two guns to a felon and tried to pay for a murder with a machine gun was sentenced today to more than seven years in federal prison.

Steven Arce, age 36, from Waterloo, Iowa, previously from Florida, received the prison term after a March 20, 2019, guilty plea to one count of selling a firearm to a felon.

In a plea agreement, Arce admitted that, on December 21, 2018, he sold an AR-15 rifle to another person whom he knew to be a felon.  During the exchange, Arce asked the felon if the felon could murder one of Arce’s medical school professors.  The felon told Arce he would need to talk to someone more qualified.

On January 2, 2019, Arce sold a second gun to the same convicted felon.  During this meeting, Arce and the felon arranged to meet with a hitman the next day.  Arce told the felon that he might want to delay killing the professor because Arce was pursuing an appeal regarding his expulsion from medical school.  Arce said he might want someone to give the professor a beating instead.  During this same meeting, Arce told the felon that Arce had two automatic weapons, or machineguns, that he could assemble.

On January 3, 2019, Arce met with the hitman, who was actually an undercover law enforcement officer.  During the meeting, Arce told the officer posing as a hitman that Arce now wanted his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend killed but might want the professor killed at a later time.  Arce offered to give the hitman a machinegun as a down payment on the murder.

Law enforcement later arrested Arce and searched his apartment in Waterloo.  During the search, officers found two additional guns in full working order.  Officers also found a box of gun parts.  These parts were examined by an expert, who concluded that the parts could be assembled into a machinegun.  Such a gun would have been able to fire in either semiautomatic or fully automatic modes.

Arce was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Arce was sentenced to 90 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.

Arce 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 investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, and the Waterloo Police Department. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 19-cr-2005.

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Updated August 29, 2019

Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime