POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) – A 41-year-old California man was sentenced to 26 years in federal prison for importing and distributing methamphetamine in eastern Idaho in exchange for firearms, announced U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit.
According to court records, Ramon Morales Jr. was initially arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol when he was caught attempting to smuggle two pounds of methamphetamine into the United States from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on April 7, 2021.
While Morales was pending those charges, he supplied large amounts of methamphetamine, along with other drugs, to local drug distributors Lynne Marie Boswell, 52, of Pocatello, and Jenny June Manzanares, 40, of Rexburg.
In exchange for methamphetamine, Boswell and Manzanares obtained firearms on Morales’s behalf by using a network of straw purchasers. A straw purchaser is an individual who knowingly purchases firearms intending to provide them to someone else in violation of federal law. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) estimates at least 250 firearms were trafficked through this illegal drug trafficking organization. Firearms purchased by these straw purchasers have been recovered at crime scenes in Idaho and states across the region.
On July 27, 2021, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), ATF, and local agency task force officers learned that Morales arranged to purchase 12 firearms from a gun store in Idaho Falls using a straw purchaser. Ivestigators were able to intercept the firearms during the transaction. After further investigation, law enforcement seized 15 pounds of methamphetamine and arrested Jonathan Ramirez-Gutierrez, 29, of Los Angeles, for drug trafficking. There was evidence Morales directed Ramirez-Gutierrez to transport the methamphetamine to Idaho and to return to California with firearms.
On August 14, 2023, Senior U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sentenced Morales to over 26 years in federal prison. In January 2023, Judge Winmill sentenced Boswell to over 15 years in federal prison for her role in the drug and gun trafficking conspiracy. In March 2023, Manzanares was sentenced to 10 years for her role in the offense. In August 2022, Ramirez-Gutierrez was sentenced to over 8 years in federal prison.
“This series of cases, and the resulting sentences, reflect success in our ongoing battle to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs and illegally-obtained firearms into and out of Idaho,” U.S. Attorney Hurwit said. I am grateful for the work of our many law enforcement partners in this investigation, which led to dismantling a very dangerous criminal operation.”
Specifically, U.S. Attorney Hurwit thanked the following law enforcement agencies for their collaboration on this investigation: the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Idaho State Police, Bannock County Sheriff’s Office, Pocatello Police Department, Fort Hall Police Department, Bingham County Sheriff’s Office, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, and the Idaho Falls Police Department. Many of these agencies are members of the BADGES Task Force.
The BADGES Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force that identifies, disrupts, and dismantles local, multi-state, and international drug trafficking organizations using intelligence-driven, multi-agency prosecutor-supported approach. The BADGES Task Force is supported by the Oregon-Idaho High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) which is composed of members from the Idaho State Police, Pocatello Police Department, Bannock County Sheriff’s Department, Chubbuck Police Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Blythe H. McLane prosecuted these cases, including during her prior role as the U.S. Attorney Office’s specially-deputized Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA), funded by the Eastern Idaho Partnership (EIP) and the State of Idaho.