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A man who used a phone to set up a drug sale and then sold marijuana and two firearms to an individual working with the police in Dubuque, Iowa, was sentenced on December 22, 2020, to more than three years in federal prison.

James Bell III, age 33, from Rock Island, Illinois, received the prison term after a July 13, 2020 guilty plea to one count of distribution of marijuana near a park in Dubuque, Iowa, after a prior drug conviction, one count of using a telephone to set up a drug transaction, and one count of possession of a firearm after being convicted of a felony offense and two domestic abuse misdemeanor crimes.

Evidence at sentencing showed that Bell used a telephone on November 21, 2017, to set up a marijuana transaction.  Later that day, he sold approximately one ounce of marijuana to an individual working with the police.  On December 7, 2017, Bell sold two firearms to an individual working with law enforcement.  During that transaction, Bell also sold someone else marijuana.

Bell was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Bell was sentenced to 37 months’ imprisonment, and he must also serve a four-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

Bell is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patrick J. Reinert and investigated by the Dubuque, Iowa, Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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

Court file information at

The case file number is 20-CR-1011.

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