Former Army Reservist sentenced for stealing guns, escaping prison, trying to rob banks

A former Army Reservist was sentenced to more than 11 years in jail Monday for stealing six machine guns and 10 handguns from a U.S. Army Reserve facility, escaping from federal prison, and attempting to rob two banks, officials say.

James W. Morales, 37, of Cambridge, was sentenced in federal court in Boston to 138 months in prison and three years of supervised release, according to United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.

Morales pleaded guilty in November 2017 to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm; one count of possession of a machine gun; one count of possession of stolen firearms; one count of theft of government property; one count of conspiracy to possess, store, conceal, and sell stolen weapons; one count of escape; and two counts of attempted bank robbery, officials say.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, on Nov. 14, 2015, Morales broke into a weapons vault at the Lincoln Stoddard United States Army Reserve Center in Worcester and stole six M-4 Carbines and 10 M-11 handguns and he gained access to the weapons by breaking a kitchen window located near the room that contained the vault, climbing to the top of the vault, and cutting a hole through its ceiling.

Upon identifying Morales through the DNA database, law enforcement learned that Morales was on bail for child rape charges pending in Middlesex Superior Court.

One of the conditions of his release required him to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, which he wore during the robbery, officials say.

After the robbery, officials say Morales rented another vehicle, and GPS data from the vehicle showed that Morales had traveled to New York City, where he was located and arrested on Nov. 18, 2015, in Long Island, and inside his vehicle, four M-4 Carbines and two M-11 handguns were recovered with serial numbers matching those stolen from the Armory.

Following his arrest, Morales was detained at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., and on Dec. 31, 2016, Morales escaped from the prison by climbing a basketball hoop, jumping onto a roof, and going through a barbed wire fence, officials say.

On Jan. 5, 2017, Morales was captured on surveillance video entering a branch of Bank of America in Cambridge and attempting to rob the bank by passing the teller a note, but the teller was able to flee to the back of the bank behind a locked door, and Morales exited the bank without any money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Later that same day, Morales, again captured on surveillance video, entered a branch of Citizen’s Bank in Somerville and attempted to rob the bank, officials say. After a foot pursuit in Somerville, Morales was apprehended by law enforcement; he admitted to attempting to rob both banks.

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