CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man, who inquired about hiring a “hit man” to kill a University of Iowa professor and another man, pleaded guilty this week to a firearms charge in federal court.
Steven Arce, 35, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the sale of a firearm to a felon, admitting he sold two firearms to a man he knew was a felon on Dec. 21 and Jan. 2 in Waterloo.
During the investigation, a confidential informant said Arce, known as “Cuban,” on Dec. 21 had several firearms at a house on Ninth Street in Waterloo. He offered to sell the informant an AR-15 and a 9 mm handgun, according to the plea agreement.
Investigators arranged for the informant to buy the rifle, according to the plea.
During the meet, the informant and Arce talked about defacing serial numbers, and Arce talked about hiring the informant to kill a UI medical professor, Dr. Christopher Cooper, in the medical school’s urology department.
Investigators later spoke with a detective from the UI Police Department. UI police reported the Carver College of Medicine called in early December, concerned that Arce was suicidal, according to court documents. Officers contacted Arce and allowed him to leave after officers determined he was not a threat to himself.
On Jan. 2, the same confidential informant again met Arce in Waterloo and asked if Arce wanted to meet the hit man the next day. Arce said he wanted to delay the hit for two weeks because he had an appeal hearing with the university, according to the plea.
Arce asked if the hit man could just intimidate Cooper, the plea shows. He wanted someone to give the professor a “beating” to coerce him into letting Arce back into medical school, court documents show.
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During this same meeting, Arce told the informant he had two fully automatic weapons he would put together by the end of the week.
On Jan. 3, the hit man — actually an undercover special agent with the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement — met with Arce, the plea shows. Arce said he wanted his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend, “S.C.,” killed.
Arce said he also might want the UI professor killed at a later time.
Authorities searched Arce’s residence Jan. 14 and recovered two guns in working order — a handgun on the nightstand and a rifle under the bed, according to the plea agreement.
Officers also found a box of gun parts, which a criminalist said could be assembled into a machine gun but had one missing part, the plea shows.
Arce was a graduate student in the UI Carver College of Medicine in May 2017 but his status had been changed to former student by December 2018, according to UI officials.
Two months earlier, on Oct. 3, Arce had been arrested in Black Hawk County on charges of operating while intoxicated and carrying weapons.
Arce faces 10 years in prison for the firearms conviction and up to a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has not been set.
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