According To Prosecutors, A Tennessee Inmate Spent At Least Three Years Running An International Crime Ring From Inside The Prison, Orchestrated A Number Of Violent Acts As Well As Instructed The Flow Of Cash From Drug Sales Between Middle TN And Mexico.
Published April 1, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
One Tennessee inmate spent at least three years running an international crime ring from inside the prison, according to prosecutors.
The prisoner is Humberto Morales, also known as Pelon, a man sentenced in 2016 to 48 years for convictions in an aggravated robbery charge in Williamson County.
Morales, 29, of Columbia faces a new string of 13 charges related to his participation in a long-running international drug ring. The charges in the conspiracy include kidnapping, threats via electronic communication, money laundering, and firearms violations.
According to investigators, Morales was the ringleader of a violent crime ring in Middle Tennessee. They say he orchestrated a number of violent acts, as well as instructed the flow of cash from drug sales between the area and Mexico.
Prosecutors say the planning took place using contraband cell phones and encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp. A federal grand jury has brought charges against 27 people so far in the case.
Court documents state the ring moved large amounts of drugs. Records allege that the conspirators distributed heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, and marijuana.
The crime ring was excessively violent, prosecutors say.
Members kidnapped a woman in Nashville and chopped off her hand with a hatchet because she lost the profits from a drug sale. They then distributed a video of the attack.
A hitman for the group cut off a portion of his own pinky finger to prove his allegiance to the group, allegedly after being instructed to do so by Morales because he lost or stole a small amount of drugs.
Prosecutors say an April 2019 shooting may also be connected to the crime ring.
Morales and Kim Birdsong of Nashville are charged with the April 4, 2019, shooting of a man known as “Pancho” or “Mekaniko.” According to investigators, the two used an encrypted app to organize the attempted murder in exchange for money, drugs, and a cancelled debt. The man was shot multiple times but survived.
Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker issued a statement on Tuesday noting that contraband cell phones are a major component in the majority of crime that takes place within a prison. The current investigation was initiated when TDOC asked for help with the problem.
Parker is now asking that it be legalized for a cell phone signal disrupter to be allowed that will make contraband cell phones less effective.
“This is just another example of illegal cell phones being used by convicted felons to communicate and conspire with criminals in the free-world to proliferate criminal activity,” Parker said in another press release Tuesday.
TDOC received a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to initiate a program, but a 1934 federal law is currently blocking the use of the technology.
Parker continued, “In the fight against contraband cell phones, we run into a brick wall, time and time again. Our hands are tied with a near century old law that count not have foreseen the problem of illegal cell phones inside prisons in 2021.”
Prosecutors seized over $160,000 in cash and a number of firearms in the investigation.
Over 30 individuals were charged in various related crimes, including Morales’ girlfriend Erika Vasquez of Memphis. If convicted, most defendants face a minimum of 10 years in prison and could face as much as life in prison.