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Press Release

Lawrence Man Sentenced to Nearly Six Years in Prison for Firearms Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts

BOSTON – A Lawrence man was sentenced yesterday for the unlawful possession of firearms stemming from his illegal dealing of rifles and handguns.

John H. Morales, 36, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf, to 70 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. On April 7, 2021, Morales pleaded guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.

“Our Commonwealth has strict requirements and thorough vetting processes to legally purchase, sell and carry firearms for a reason – they are dangerous and deadly weapons. Keeping illegal firearms off the street and out of the hands of prohibited individuals is at the core of combating the continued rise in violent crime we have seen across our nation,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “Despite being a convicted felon strictly prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition, Mr. Morales illegally delt 14 firearms – including a high-powered semi-automatic rifle with two 30 round magazines – within just four short months. His conduct is alarming and each of those firearms and the ammunition have been taken off the street. Each of those bullets is a potential gun violence victim. We are committed to protecting the safety and wellbeing of Massachusetts residents and removing individuals like Mr. Morales from our communities is a step in the right direction.”

“The FBI’s North Shore Gang Task Force is working with our law enforcement partners to rid our communities of illegal firearms and whether it’s through takedowns of violent gun-toting gangs or, one by one, arresting felons like Mr. Morales, a criminal in possession of 14 firearms and ammunition – including an SKS rifle – we will continue to do all we can to make our neighborhoods safer. There is little doubt these guns would have ended up in the hands of gang members had we not obtained them, resulting in serious danger to the public,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division.

In early 2019, federal law enforcement opened an investigation into Morales’ illegal firearm dealing. The investigation revealed that between February 2019 and May 2019, Morales sold a cooperating witness 14 firearms – including pistols, concealable weapons and a high-powered SKS rifle accompanied by two 30 round magazines – which were seized during the investigation. Morales was arrested in November 2019 and has been in custody since that date.

Due to prior felony convictions from 2010 and 2016, Morales is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.

U.S. Attorney Rollins and FBI SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement. The FBI’s North Shore Gang Task Force conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip C. Cheng of Rollins’ Organized Crime & Gang Unit prosecuted the case.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

Updated October 26, 2022

Firearms Offenses