Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Officer Edwing Morales Charged with Firearms Trafficking

A Metro police officer and four others have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of international firearms trafficking.

Federal investigators said Metro Officer Edwing Ronal Morales and the others were charged in a conspiracy to purchase guns to send to two separate drug cartels in Guatemala.

The indictment charges that Julio Cesar Rojas-Lopez recruited Donald Efren Franco, Denis Franco, Luis Armando Monterroso Pineda and Morales to purchase guns from gun dealers in Davidson County.

The men allegedly falsified documents claiming they were purchasing the guns for themselves when the guns were in fact being delivered to the cartels in Guatemala.

Investigators said the defendants purchased 23 firearms and attempted to purchase five more guns, ammunition and falsely stated who the purchasers and recipients would be.

Some of the weapons purchased did end up in Guatemala, said investigators.

"They put them in towed cars, secreted them inside towed vehicles and towed the vehicles across the border. They also put them in secret compartments in the cars," said agent James Cavanaugh of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Authorities said all five men indicted have citizenship in another country but are in the United States legally.

Morales had been assigned to routine patrol in the North precinct. While Morales was an officer, according to Serpas it doesn't appear he used his position in any way to purchase the guns.

"I think (Morales) was stupid to be involved in this criminal enterprise and think he could get away with it," Serpas said.

Morales was fired Sept. 15 from the Metro Nashville Police Department. He had been a police officer trainee since April 1, 2007.

"This community and this police department has no tolerance for anyone involved in this type of behavior," said Serpas.

Authorities would not say how they were tipped off but said they started piecing things together after two of the men were pulled over after leaving a gun shop in Franklin.

As for the former police officer involved, Serpas said sometimes you cannot keep those who uphold the law from breaking it.

"I think in every walk of life, people get through the cracks, people slip through, and somehow secret what their true motivations and true behavior is," said Serpas.

All five of the people involved have turned themselves in to authorities. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. district attorney.

Morales passed a background check and had a clean record before becoming a Metro officer.

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