Texas rancher gets 38-year prison sentence for operating ‘smuggling corridor’ for cartel

A Texas rancher who worked with a Mexican drug cartel to smuggle illegal immigrants and weed into the US was slapped with a 38-year prison sentence, prosecutors said.

Cuban citizen Gilberto Morales, 57, coordinated with a cartel out of Porvenir, Chihuahua to smuggle immigrants and more than a ton of marijuana a month across the Rio Grande through his ranch in Fort Hancock, 40 miles east of El Paso, according the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.

“For more than a year, Gilberto Morales operated his very own smuggling corridor through his ranch right on the Rio Grande, working with a Mexican drug trafficking organization in smuggling bulk marijuana and undocumented immigrants,” said US Attorney Ashley C. Hoff.

The Cuban national, who had been people smuggling from at least November 2019, must forfeit his 160-acre ranch and $157,000 in cash that was found stashed, as well as trucks and an arsenal of weapons and ammunition. He also has to pay a $520,000 fine.

Federal agents raided Morales’ ranch in August 2020 and found four undocumented immigrants, almost $157,000 in cash, 11 guns and more than 1,800 rounds of ammunition, prosecutors said in a news release.

Morales was found guilty in July on multiple charges including conspiracy to transport aliens and possession of more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, prosecutors said. He was sentenced March 9, according to the US attorney’s office.

The rancher has a 2009 conviction for conspiracy with the intent to distribute more than five kilos of cocaine in New York, prosecutors said. He was sentenced to 50 months in federal prison.

“Doing hard time in New York wasn’t enough for Mr. Morales,” said Jeffrey Boshek, special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“He decided to move to Texas and continue a life of crime and villainy,” Boskek added in a statement. “He should have known that Texas law enforcement is relentless. Mr. Morales will now have more time to think about his career choices. Thanks to all the law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation for helping to keep the citizens of Texas safe.”

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