BOSTON – Two men, who pleaded guilty to illegally possessing firearms on Saratoga Street in Lawrence, were recently sentenced to lengthy prison terms in United States District Court in Boston.
Christopher Morales, 29, and Melvin Rivera, 26, pleaded guilty earlier this year to being felons in possession of a firearm and ammunition. On July 15, U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper sentenced Morales to 180 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. On July 8, Judge Casper sentenced Rivera to 96 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; ICE – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Massachusetts State Police; the Lawrence Police Department and the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department have been conducting a long-term investigation of violent kidnapping crews operating in Lawrence. This investigation revealed that these crews – commonly referred to as “Joloperros,” Spanish for “stick-up men” – targeted drug dealers for kidnapping.
On May 9, 2012, federal agents and detectives responded to Saratoga Street in Lawrence to investigate a possible kidnapping in progress. When they arrived, agents saw a van with two men inside. Agents observed and recovered duct tape and zip ties (or plastic handcuffs) from the van. Rivera and Morales were in a parked gray Acura behind the van, and were ordered out of the car. Agents recovered a loaded firearm from under Morales’s seat and a second loaded firearm from behind Morales’s seat (near Rivera). Both men were arrested and charged with firearm offenses in state court.
As agents sought to arrest Rivera on a federal arrest warrant at his home on Bennington Street in Lawrence, Rivera threw two loaded firearms from his bedroom window into a basement stairwell. Because of Morales’s criminal history, he was determined to be an armed career criminal and was subject to a 180-month mandatory minimum sentence.