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Jose Morales pleads guilty to new drug charges

February 1, 2013

Jose J. Morales, the collapse contractor, thief, arsonist and drug dealer whose curiously consequence-less criminal career was featured in City Paper in 2008, and who later turned in his lawyer, Stanley Needleman, on tax charges, pleaded guilty to new federal drug charges today.

“I am writing to inform you that I would like to plead guilty in the United States court case US v Morales,” Morales wrote to his lawyer last week on lined paper.

According to prosecutor’s memo made part of the court record, Morales began scheming to get heroin into the U.S. penitentiary in Canaan, PA soon after his arrival there in April 2010. He enlisted Terry Sadler, a long-time girlfriend with whom he has a child, to carry the heroin secreted in balloons in her mouth (she pleaded guilty last year). There was also a scheme with an unnamed woman to smuggle marijuana from Texas.

The feds listened in on Morales’s phone calls directing the women to dealers and advising Sadler to bring the child on her visit to the prison to throw suspicion off. A transcript of one 2010 phone call was entered into evidence under seal during Morales’s Feb. 1 re-arraignment.

Involving the minor adds years to his potential sentence, according to the prosecutor’s memo, which also says Morales “used violence, made a credible threat to use violence, or directed the use of violence” in directing the scheme.

At his sentencing, scheduled for May 16, Morales could face up to 40 years just on these charges. There is no plea agreement.

Morales also faces murder charges for allegedly ordering the contract-killing of his former right-hand man, Robert Long, shortly after Long decided to testify for the state in the pair’s pending theft trials. Long was found shot to death on March 24, 2008. In 2010 Demetrius Smith was convicted of that murder based mostly on the testimony of Mark Bartlett, a compatriot of both Morales and Long. Bartlett has since died, and the state dropped the charges against Smith last summer shortly before the feds charged Morales.  Smith remains in prison on other charges.

Morales could face the death penalty in the murder case. There is a status conference scheduled for April 3.