Providence Man Sentenced on Firearm, Transportation of Stolen Property Charges

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Providence man who admitted to being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm and with participating in a conspiracy to transport stolen recreation vehicles into Rhode Island was sentenced on Wednesday to thirty-seven months in federal prison, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

On December 21, 2020, Luis M. Morales, 39, pled guilty to being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, and, in a separate case, to conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property and two counts of interstate transportation of stolen property.

According to charging documents and information presented to the court, Morales is one of nine individuals who participated in a conspiracy, stretching across several states, to steal and sell sport boats, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles, excavators, and trailers. Morales admitted that on July 17, 2020, he drove a pick-up truck to a Stafford, CT, recreational vehicle dealership where he and others stole a 2020 Yamaha watercraft, a 2019 Can-Am Maverick Sport off-road vehicle, and two trailers; all of these items were transported into Rhode Island. Morales similarly admitted that he and others stole three jet skis from a dealership an Easton, MA, on July 20, 202, and transported them to Rhode Island.

In a separately charged case, an Easton Police Detective encountered Morales while investigating the theft of the jet skis. During interviews police obtained his cell phone, which was turned over to the FBI and searched pursuant to a federal warrant. The FBI review discovered text messages indicating that Morales was also brokering the sale of fentanyl to a Massachusetts drug user in exchange for firearms. An analysis of these text messages established that Morales received or brokered the sale/trade of six firearms. Among the firearms obtained by Morales was an AR-15 assault rifle.

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On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Mary S. McElroy sentenced Morales to thirty-seven months in federal prison to be followed by three years of federal supervised release. In addition, Judge McElroy ordered Morales to pay a combined total of $55,455 in restitution to the owners of the stolen property and to insurance companies. Additionally, Judge McElroy ordered Morales to pay a $1,000 fine.

The cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William J. Ferland and Ly T. Chin.

An investigation by the Johnston and North Providence Police Departments, joined by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and merged with a parallel investigation by Rhode Island and Connecticut State Police, and the Easton, MA, and the Hampstead, NH, Police Departments, determined that between November 2019 and July 2020, three Bobcat excavators, ten jet skis, four boats, eight all-terrain vehicles, and ten trailers valued at over $700,000 were stolen.

United States Attorney Cunha thanks the FBI and ATF for their assistance in investigating Morales’ firearms trading activity.