Port Charlotte Armed Career Criminal Pleads Guilty To Methamphetamine And Heroin Distribution Offenses And To Possessing A Firearm As A Convicted Felon
Orlando, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Derek Morales-Figueroa (26, Orlando) has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine. Morales-Figueroa faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement and other court documents, beginning on September 11, 2020, Morales-Figueroa and a conspirator, Jacob Luis Bonilla-Rivera, engaged in a series of phone calls with individuals who they believed to be cocaine dealers but who were, in fact, undercover agents working on behalf of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). These discussions culminated in an agreement to purchase 20 kilograms of cocaine in Orlando. On September 16, 2020, HSI agents met with Bonilla-Rivera and Juan Omar Rodriguez, Jr. (21, Auburndale) where the conspirators showed to HSI agents the $600,000 in cash that they had brought to the deal in a hidden compartment in one of their vehicles. After doing so, Bonilla-Rivera and Rodriguez proceeded to a location where HSI agents had arranged to show them the 20 kilograms of cocaine. Morales-Figueroa participated in inspecting the cocaine by video conferencing on one of the conspirator’s phones. After inspecting the cocaine, Bonilla-Rivera and Rodriguez returned to their car to retrieve the cash from the hidden compartment, at which time they were arrested. Upon searching their vehicles, HSI agents found that both Bonilla-Rivera and Rodriguez had loaded firearms in their possession in the vehicles they had driven to the meeting along with a total of $639,325 cash. In his plea agreement, Morales-Figueroa agreed to forfeit the cash seized in connection with this arrest.
On September 17, 2020, Bonilla-Rivera and Rodriguez were charged for their roles in the conspiracy. Bonilla-Rivera and Rodriguez both pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Morales-Figueroa was not located at the time. On March 10, 2021, Morales-Figueroa was identified during a traffic stop in Flagler County but fled from law enforcement. On January 3, 2022, Morales-Figueroa was arrested in Jacksonville in connection with a search of a residence and seizure of nine kilograms of cocaine.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the Seminole County Sherriff’s Office, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dana E. Hill.