WATERLOO – A former medical student from Waterloo will go to prison for gun sales in connection with a revenge plot to kill a University of Iowa physician after he was kicked out of medical school.
Attorneys for 36-year-old Steven A. Arce had asked for leniency, citing mental health and addiction issues, and claiming an undercover agent who posed as a hit man was aggressive making a case.
But prosecutors argued Arce knew what he was doing when he offered the undercover officer a fully automatic weapon in exchange for killing the doctor and when he sold guns to an informant with felony convictions.
“Defendant was not entrapped into his offenses. No one forced defendant to sell guns to a felon. There is certainly no evidence the (confidential informant) knew either individual defendant wanted killed, let alone pressured defendant into seeking their murders. Defendant alone is to blame for his actions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Morfitt wrote in a sentencing motion.
Judge C.J. Williams sentenced Arce to seven and a half years in prison on a charge of transferring a firearm to a felon during a hearing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.
During the hearing, one of Arce’s targets, Dr. Christopher Cooper, an associate dean at the Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, testified.
Prosecutors said Arce was upset after he was removed from the school and handed a note with Cooper’s name to an informant who was supposed to contact a hit man. Arce sold the informant, who had told Arce he was a felon, an AR-15 rifle and a 9 mm pistol.
Arce later met with an Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement agent who was posing as the hit man, and Arce indicated he was also interested in having his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend killed in exchange for two machine guns and wanted to delay the hit on the doctor.
On Jan. 14, police searched Arce’s home and seized a handgun from a nightstand and a rifle from under his bed. Investigators also seized a collection of firearms 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.
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