ALBUQUERQUE – Jonathan Morales, 24, of El Paso, Texas, pled guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to cocaine trafficking charges arising from the seizure of 1.72 kilograms (3.8 pounds) of cocaine at the U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint near Las Cruces.
The U.S. Border Patrol and HSI arrested Morales in Nov. 2017, on a criminal complaint charging him with possessing 1.72 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute. According to the complaint, U.S. Border Patrol agents seized the cocaine from Morales and a passenger who was in his vehicle when they entered the U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint on I-25 near Las Cruces in Dona Ana County, N.M.
Morales subsequently was indicted on Feb. 21, 2018, and was charged with conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute on Nov. 1, 2017 in Dona Ana County. During today’s proceedings, Morales entered a guilty plea to the indictment without the benefit of a plea agreement.
At sentencing, Morales faces an enhanced penalty of a statutory mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of ten years and a maximum of life, instead of the otherwise applicable five to 40 years of imprisonment, because of his prior felony drug trafficking conviction. Morales remains in federal custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Border Patrol, and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Joni L. Autrey and Assistant U.S. Attorney Renee L. Camacho.