By NAXIELY LOPEZ-PUENTE AND VALERIE GONZALEZ
PEÑITAS — The city’s chief of staff was arrested on a federal firearms charge Tuesday morning, according to an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
ATF agents arrested Andres Morales sometime between 8 and 10 a.m. Tuesday on allegations of making false statements on federal forms in connection with purchasing firearms, according to the criminal complaint. ATF Special Agent Deon Washington of the Houston Division said this was in violation of Title 18 of section 922(a)(6) of the federal Gun Control Act.
The arrest was first reported by the Progress Times.
Morales was the only person arrested for the charge, which makes it illegal “for any person in connection with the acquisition or attempted acquisition of any firearm or ammunition from a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector, knowingly to make any false or fictitious oral or written statement or to furnish or exhibit any false, fictitious, or misrepresented identification, intended or likely to deceive such importer, manufacturer, dealer, or collector with respect to any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale or other disposition of such firearm or ammunition under the provisions of this chapter.”
According to the complaint, ATF special agents reviewed federal forms Morales filed regarding his purchasing of several weapons from Glick Twins in Pharr.
Between Jan. 19 and July 13, 2017, Morales specifically purchased a CMMG U-140 AR-1, a 7.62-by-39mm caliber rifle and a Remington W-36, according to the complaint.
Federal authorities, however, alleged that Morales indicated “no” on each form about whether he was convicted of a felony. They referenced in the complaint a Sept. 1, 2006 conviction for marijuana possession — between 50 and 2,000 pounds — in which Morales received five years of community supervision.
The complaint further stated that Morales told agents “he was working on his pardon but never got it.”
Court records also show that Morales pleaded guilty in March 2001 to possessing between 5 and 50 pounds of marijuana, but avoided conviction when state District Judge Rose Guerra Reyna allowed him to receive deferred adjudication.
Peñitas city attorney Jose “Pepe” Caso said Morales started working for the city in 2015 and earns a salary of about $60,000.
“Right now the city is not taking any action as far as his employment. We just haven’t been able to access any information on what it is that happened, but we know that he was detained,” Caso said early Tuesday afternoon, before additional details were known regarding the allegations against Morales. “We just don’t know if he’s being charged or what exactly.”
Caso said he and others were taken aback when they found out about the arrest.
“We’re all very surprised. He’s a great guy and this is kind of a weird deal,” Caso said. “I mean, we’re all very shocked.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include additional information from a criminal complaint.