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March 8, 2010

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(MCALLEN, Texas) – Jose Joaquin Morales, 33, of Baltimore, Md., has been sentenced to 262 months in federal prison without parole for possessing with intent to distribute cocaine, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

United States District Court Judge Randy Crane pronounced sentence at a hearing this afternoon. During that hearing, the court found Morales accountable for trafficking approximately six kilograms of cocaine between the Rio Grande Valley and Baltimore. The sentence includes an upward adjustment based upon Morales’ career offender status. Morales has two prior convictions in Maryland for the felony offense of malicious burning in the first degree in 1995 and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in 2001. The prison term will be followed by a five-year-term of supervised release.

Indicted on Sept. 9, 2008, Morales pleaded guilty on May 1, 2009, to possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. At re-arraignment, he admitted that on Aug. 14, 2008, he purchased the cocaine in McAllen and chartered a plane for $23,000 cash to fly back to Baltimore with the intention of selling each of the six bundles for $29,000 to $30,000 each. Morales also admitting to having hidden the cocaine in a men’s bathroom at the airport while he waited for the flight. However, before Morales could board that chartered flight, a Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office K-9 alerted  - indicating the odor of a controlled substance - on Morales’ tote bag, the area where Morales had been sitting as well as a trash can in the men’s room resulting in the discovery of the cocaine. 

The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn Ferko.

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