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Press Release

Heroin User Sentenced to Federal Prison for Possessing a Gun

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Had recently stolen the gun

A Decorah man who unlawfully possessed a gun while a drug user was sentenced yesterday to 46 months in prison.

Lester Wallace Erickson, III, age 30, from Decorah, Iowa, received the prison sentence after a December 21, 2020, guilty plea to possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Information disclosed at sentencing and in his plea agreement showed that in October 2019 police officers responded to a storage unit in Ridgeway, Iowa.  They found Erickson passed out in a vehicle.  He had recently used heroin and fentanyl and overdosed.  Erickson was treated for the overdose.  Officers searched the vehicle and found a gun in a nearby bag.  Erickson had stolen the gun a few days prior from a friend.  He intended to pawn the gun.  In 2018, Erickson was convicted of a felony-controlled substance offense.  Erickson has twelve adult criminal convictions, nine of which were committed while he was on court supervision.  Erickson also has one conviction for a violent offense. 

Erickson was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Erickson was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment.  He was ordered to make payment of $100 to the special assessment fund.  He must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Alex Geocaris and Assistant United States Attorney Ashley Corkery and investigated by the Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Department, the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive.

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 its Project Guardian partners.  For more information about Project Guardian, please see /media/1122011/download?inline.

Court file information at

The case file number is 20-CR-2050.                               

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Updated May 7, 2021

Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses