Multi-county marijuana dealer sent to prison
NORRISTOWN » While supporters of “a high-ranking member” of a cross-country marijuana trafficking ring downplayed his conduct as victimless and non-violent, a judge saw it differently.
Montgomery County Judge Gary S. Silow sentenced Ruben E. Morales, 51, of the 2000 block of North Carlisle Street, Philadelphia, to two to five years in state prison for being a distributor for the pot trafficking ring that targeted primarily Montgomery, Berks and Bucks counties.
“I’ve seen how you have somehow worked this out in your mind that what you’re doing isn’t wrong because that’s where the tide of public opinion is going,” Silow addressed Morales, adding however, he’s presided over numerous criminal cases of people where pot was the gateway drug that led to their addictions to other drugs.
Silow previously convicted
Morales of charges of corrupt organizations, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity and conspiracy in connection with incidents that occurred between January 2007 and April 2014.
The judge’s sentencing decision came after more than a dozen supporters asked him not to send Morales to prison, calling Morales a “kind, honest, generous” man who used his civil engineering background to rehabilitate neighborhoods in North Philadelphia and who was a respected community volunteer and organizer.
Supporters argued because there’s a trend toward states legalizing marijuana for medical and personal use Morales shouldn’t be sent to prison like a criminal.
“I don’t believe that anything was done wrong…that deserves jail time. I feel it’s victimless,” Suzanne Kornas, Morales’ girlfriend, told the judge, arguing Morales can do more good outside of prison. “Ruben helps everybody. Everybody goes to Ruben for help.”
Defense lawyer Perry DeMarco argued for leniency for Morales.
“He’s not your typical drug dealer. He’s selling a drug that doesn’t cause violence,” DeMarco argued.
But Assistant District Attorney Robert Kolansky, who sought prison time against Morales, argued “Marijuana today…is still illegal in Pennsylvania and it most certainly was illegal at the time of the defendant’s arrest in June 2014.”
“Much can be said about the changing tide in society and cultural ideas about marijuana, but there are longstanding beliefs that marijuana is dangerous in the community. It is not a victimless crime, the distribution of marijuana,” said Kolansky, adding violence is often associated with drug trafficking activities.
“He’s a high ranking member of this criminal organization,” Kolansky said about Morales.
The judge said there were two sides to Morales, the one who is respected as a giving, loving friend and the other who is trafficking pot.
“This is a tragedy in many respects. Obviously you are a very bright person, Mr. Morales,” said Silow, adding Morales could have done good things for the community without turning to something illegal. “That’s the tragedy.”
During the sweeping investigation, searches of properties associated with Morales led to the seizure of about 25 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of between $75,000 and $125,000, according to the arrest affidavit. Kolansky and detectives hauled four green duffel bags filled with heat-sealed packages of marijuana into the courtroom as evidence during Morales’ trial.
A total of 22 people, who resided in Montgomery, Berks and Bucks counties, were charged in connection with the pot trafficking ring in June 2014. Authorities seized more than 100 pounds of pot, with a street value of up to $505,000, during the overall investigation, according to testimony.
Morales was the last of the individuals described as major confederates to learn his fate. Several others involved in the plot previously pleaded guilty, were convicted and were sentenced.
Jason Lee Marks, 47, of the 2900 block of Kutztown Road, Upper Hanover, previously was sentenced to four to 10 years in prison for his role as an East Coast distributor for the ring.
Authorities alleged Marks and Michael Anthony Lynch, 49, of the first block of Hickory Lane, Boyertown, another alleged distributor, obtained marijuana from a California supplier, Larry F. Kline, and then distributed the pot to sub-dealers in the southeastern Pennsylvania region.
Lynch previously pleaded guilty to various drug- and conspiracy-related charges and was sentenced last month to 24 months in the county’s intermediate punishment program, the first four months to be spent under house arrest. The remaining 20 months of the sentence will be spent under intensive probation.
Kline, 46, of McKinleyville,
“He’s a high ranking member of this criminal organization.”
“I’ve seen how you have somehow worked this out in your mind that what you’re doing isn’t wrong because that’s where the tide of public opinion is going.”
Calif., previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 11½ to 23 months in jail and was permitted to serve the sentence under house arrest in California, according to court records.
Authorities alleged the East Coast distributors made trips to California and obtained high-grade marijuana and transported it across the country.
“Marijuana was obtained from Humboldt County, California, transported to Pennsylvania in a privatelyowned recreational vehicle and distributed to locations in seven Pennsylvania counties,” detectives from Montgomery and Berks counties alleged in the arrest affidavit.
In addition to Berks and Montgomery, other counties targeted by the pot ring included Lehigh, Bucks, Carbon, Northampton and Philadelphia.
Narcotics enforcement teams from Montgomery and Berks conducted electronic surveillance, wiretaps, on eight telephones used by the principal targets, according to arrest documents. An investigative team, comprising the Upper Perk Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police and the California Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation Team provided assistance, including serving search warrants where evidence pertinent to the investigation was seized, court documents indicate.
On March 31, 2014, authorities searched numerous residences in multiple counties.
In addition to wiretaps, investigators utilized visual surveillance, controlled buys of drugs, information from informants and information obtained through an investigative grand jury, according to court papers.
— Montgomery County Judge Gary S. Silow to pot trafficker Ruben Morales — Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Robert Kolansky