Suspect in Army Reserve weapons theft reaches plea deal

gettyimages 169402919 Suspect in Army Reserve weapons theft reaches plea deal

US soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, with their M-4 Carbine Rifles, relax alongside the Maxxpro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles prior to going on an operation at the Forward Operating Base Ghazni on May 24, 2013. (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

WORCESTER, Mass.— A man charged with stealing 16 guns from an Army Reserve facility in Massachusetts, escaping from a Rhode Island prison and trying to rob two banks has reached a plea deal with prosecutors that could put him behind bars for 15 years.

James Morales’ deal with federal prosecutors, first reported by the Telegram & Gazette (http://bit.ly/2y3eVmd ), was signed Sept. 15 and filed in court Friday. A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13.

Morales’ federal public defender did not immediately respond to a phone call for comment Monday, a holiday.

Morales, a former Army reservist from Cambridge, Massachusetts, stole six M-4 carbines and 10 M-11 handguns from the Lincoln W. Stoddard U.S. Army Reserve Center in Worcester in November 2015, prosecutors said.

Morales was tied to the theft through DNA evidence and an electronic monitoring bracelet he was wearing because he was out on bail on a child rape charge at the time, authorities have said.

He was captured in New York days later. He escaped from the privately run Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on Dec. 31, stole a car in nearby Attleboro, Massachusetts, and was recaptured five days later after allegedly trying to rob banks in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, prosecutors have said.

According to the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend 14 years in prison for the charges stemming from the gun thefts and bank robbery attempts, and one additional year for the escape. The deal also calls for three years of probation. Morales faced up to 90 years in prison if convicted at trial of all the charges.

The judge isn’t bound by the prosecution’s recommendations.

Two people convicted of helping sell the stolen guns already have been sentenced. Tyrone James received nearly five years behind bars, while Ashley Bigsbee received a nearly 2-year sentence.

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