According to officials, a Cuban rancher living in Texas was sentenced to more than 38 years in jail for working with a Mexican drug cartel and trafficking between half and one tonne of marijuana each week for more than a year.
Gilberto Morales, 57, was sentenced to 460 months in prison, forfeit his property, including the 160-acre ranch where he ran his operation, and pay more than $520,000 in restitution for trafficking drugs and smuggling undocumented immigrants, including alleged cartel members, through his property in Fort Hancock, Texas, according to the US Department of Justice.
“For more than a year, Gilberto Morales operated his very own smuggling route via his ranch right on the Rio Grande, collaborating with a Mexican drug trafficking group in smuggling bulk marijuana and undocumented immigrants,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff in a prepared statement. “Today’s sentence is appropriate for a defendant who provided safe haven to a violent Mexican cartel in the United States.”
According to police, Morales was convicted in July 2021 of conspiracy to possess 1,000 kilogrammes or more of marijuana, possession of 100 kilogrammes or more of marijuana, and offences linked to sheltering and conspiring to house those who are in the country illegally.
From June 2019 to August 2020, he was found to have trafficked at least 22,000 kilogrammes of marijuana into the United States while working with a cartel in Porvenir, Chihuahua, Mexico — just across the Rio Grande from his ranch. Morales was also discovered to be smuggling undocumented immigrants and harbouring at least four of them at his property as early as November 2019, according to officials.
Morales transported over 480 kg of marijuana at a time, according to investigators. During the execution of their several search warrants, investigators discovered that Morales – who had previously been convicted on drug conspiracy charges – possessed 11 weapons and around 1,833 rounds of ammunition.