U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill Monday sentenced Saul Antonio Morales, 49, of Alpaugh, to 17 and a half years in prison for drug offenses relating to his involvement in a large marijuana cultivation operation that he maintained on his property, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
On October 31, 2013, a federal jury found Morales guilty of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, possessing marijuana with intent to distribute, and maintaining drug-involved premises. * * *
In May 2012, during the execution of a search warrant at one of the parcels where Morales resided, members of the Sheriff’s Tactical Enforcement Personnel (STEP) unit of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office located 4,011 marijuana plants, a processing room, and three firearms. The officers seized another 198 marijuana plants at another parcel and identified Morales’s stash house at the third property. * * *
In sentencing Morales, Judge O’Neill enhanced Morales’ sentence based on his leadership role and possession of firearms, noting, “guns change everything.”