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Press Release

Hiawatha Cocaine User Pleads Guilty to Illegally Possessing a Gun

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

A man who unlawfully possessed a handgun pled guilty today in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Guillermo Legarrea, age 50, from Hiawatha, Iowa, was convicted of one count of being an unlawful user of cocaine in possession of a firearm.

At the plea hearing, Legarrea admitted that he illegally possessed the firearm in December 2018.  Evidence at a prior hearing showed that Legarrea was stopped by a Hiawatha Police Officer on suspicion of driving with a suspended license.  During the encounter, the officer noticed the odor of alcohol coming from Legarrea’s breath and could tell that he was intoxicated.  Another officer observed beer bottles inside Legarrea’s van.  After placing Legarrea under arrest for suspicion of drunk driving, the officers located a baggie containing cocaine in Legarrea’s sock.  During a search of Legarrea’s van, officers located a black backpack that contained a loaded handgun and over $9,000 in cash.

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.

Sentencing before United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams will be set after a presentence report is prepared.  Legarrea remains free on bond previously set pending sentencing.  Legarrea faces a possible maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and 3 years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case was investigated by the Hiawatha Police Department and Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Chatham. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 19‑CR‑00100‑CJW‑MAR.

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Updated March 4, 2020

Firearms Offenses
Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods