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A Cuban rancher living in Texas has been sentenced to more than 38 years in prison for working with a Mexican drug cartel and trafficking between half a ton and a ton of marijuana every week for more than a year, officials said.
Gilberto Morales, 57, was sentenced to spend 460 months behind bars, abandon his property – including the 160-acre ranch where he ran his operation – and hand over more than $520,000 for drug and drug trafficking. undocumented immigrants, including suspected cartel members, through his property in Fort Hancock, Texas, the US Department of Justice said.
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“For over a year, Gilberto Morales operated his own smuggling corridor through his ranch directly on the Rio Grande, working with a Mexican drug trafficking organization in smuggling bulk marijuana and undocumented immigrants” , said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff in a prepared report. declaration. “Today’s sentencing represents just punishment for a defendant who provided refuge to a dangerous Mexican cartel in the United States.”
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Morales was convicted in July 2021 of conspiracy to possess 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana; possession of 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, as well as charges related to harboring and conspiring to harbor people who are illegally in the country, authorities say.
He was found to have smuggled at least 22,000 kilograms of marijuana into the United States from June 2019 to August 2020 while working with a cartel in Porvenir in Chihuahua, Mexico – located across the country of the Rio Grande from his ranch. Morales was also found to be smuggling undocumented immigrants and harboring at least four of them on his ranch, since November 2019, officials said.
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Investigators found that Morales typically smuggled more than 480 kilograms of marijuana at a time. While executing their multiple search warrants, investigators also discovered that Morales – who had a previous drug conspiracy conviction – had 11 firearms and approximately 1,833 cartridges.