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Press Release

Hartley Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Possession of a Firearm

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

Joe Ripka, 34, from Hartley, Iowa, pled guilty on August 1, 2022, to being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.  Ripka was previously convicted of Failure to Affix Drug Stamp, in the Iowa District Court for Emmet County, on October 23, 2017.    This conviction prohibits a person from possessing a firearm. 

Evidence at the plea hearing showed that on December 22, 2021, law enforcement observed the vehicle Ripka was driving without any license plates.  During the stop, Ripka displayed signs of impairment.  A K9 was deployed on the exterior of the car and indicated the presence of controlled substances from within, at which time Ripka stated there was a firearm in the car and acknowledged he was a felon.  Law enforcement uncovered a .380 handgun in the driver’s door.  Later, upon inspection of the officer’s vehicle near where Ripka had been seated on December 22, 2021, the arresting officer located a pack of cigarettes wedged between the seats which contained 1 gram of methamphetamine. 

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand will be set after a presentence report is prepared.  Ripka remains in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing.  Ripka faces a possible maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and not more than 3 years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

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.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patrick T. Greenwood and was investigated by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 22-4041.  Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.

Updated August 3, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses