WATERLOO – A Cedar Rapids man has pleaded guilty to weapons charges in connection with an alleged hitman scheme.
Steven Anthony Arce, 35, a former medical student who allegedly sought to have a University of Iowa professor killed, pleaded guilty to one count of transferring a firearm to a felon on March 20 in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.
On Monday, Judge C.J. Williams signed an order approving the plea. The charge carries up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to the plea agreement, Arce was carrying a loaded and cocked .45-caliber handgun in a shoulder holster on Dec. 21 when he offered a confidential source an AR-15 rifle and a 30-06 rifle at a West Ninth Street address in Waterloo. He also wanted the source to hire someone to kill the professor.
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The source had told Arce he was a felon and couldn’t legally possess firearms, but Arce sold him the Smith & Wesson AR-15, records state. Arce continued to discuss the murder plot. The source talked about bringing in someone with more experience, and Arce handed the source a yellow sticky note with the professor’s name and the department where he worked, records state.
In January, Arce sold the source a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and said he wanted to postpone the hit because of an appeal he had at the university, but he stated he wanted someone to beat up the professor to coerce him into letting Arce back into medical school, records state.
The following day, an undercover officer pretending to be a hitman met with Arce, who said he now wanted the target to be his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. He said the he might want the professor killed later, and he claimed he was assembling fully automatic weapons.
On Jan. 14, police searched Arce’s home and seized a handgun in a nightstand and a rifle from under his bed. Investigators also seized a collection of firearm parts. The parts included a three-position trigger group that could be used on a machine gun, but the corresponding upper receiver section that would be needed to make a fully automatic firearm wasn’t among the parts, records state.