Multi-county mar­i­juana dealer sent to pri­son

The Southern Berks News - - FRONT PAGE - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Mont­coCourtNews on Twit­ter

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

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