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Press Release

Nebraska Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Possession of Firearm in Iowa

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

A man who illegally possessed a firearm pled guilty March 16, 2023, in federal court in Sioux City.

Damian Ortega Rojas, 19, from South Sioux City, Nebraska, was convicted of possession of a firearm by a drug user.

Evidence at the plea hearing showed that on July 22, 2022, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle Ortega Rojas was driving. Also present in the vehicle were Rojas’s three minor siblings.  Ortega Rojas showed signs of driving impaired and as the officer approached the vehicle, he detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.  Ortega Rojas provided law enforcement with a bag containing approximately ¼ to ½ pound of marijuana.  The officer also located a backpack in the vehicle which contained a Glock .40 caliber handgun.  Also located and seized in the vehicle were numerous spent .22 casings, multiple .40 rounds, baggies, grinder, tobacco pre-rolls, marijuana pipe, and storage container with marijuana residue.  Ortega Rojas admitted to being a user of marijuana and a daily smoker of marijuana.  Ortega Rojas further admitted that he stole the backpack containing the handgun from a vehicle in Sioux City.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand will be set after a presentence report is prepared.  Ortega Rojas remains free on bond previously set pending sentencing.  Ortega Rojas faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and not more than three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Shawn S. Wehde and was investigated by Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office, and the Tri-State Drug Task Force based in Sioux City, Iowa, that consists of law enforcement personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration; Sioux City, Iowa, Police Department; Homeland Security Investigations; Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office; South Sioux City, Nebraska, Police Department; Nebraska State Patrol; Iowa National Guard; Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement; United States Marshals Service; South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation; and Woodbury County Attorney’s Office. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 22-4064.  Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.

Updated March 16, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses