A Tucson man who was one of 14 people indicted in a theft ring in which more than $1.5 million in jewelry was stolen and sold off, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison Friday.
Socorro Juan Morales, 43, pleaded guilty to one count each of illegal control of an enterprise and theft.
He was also ordered to pay more than $83,000 in restitution to the victim and he must complete five years' probation after his release from prison.
Morales and 13 others were indicted in June 2012 on 104 charges including theft, money laundering, forgery and trafficking in stolen property, after a nearly yearlong investigation by the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
In August 2011 a 2,000-pound safe containing $1.5 million worth of valuable items was stolen from a west-side home while the homeowners were on vacation.
Charges were dismissed against three defendants, two have not been located, one died and the other seven were sentenced to prison or probation.
The jewelry was then sold on at least 50 different occasions at different pawn stores, Assistant Attorney General Michael Jette told Judge Richard Nichols in court Friday.
The victim told Nichols he had previously met Morales, his wife and their young daughter when they came to his home to trade and sell jewelry. He said they were the only two people tied to the ring that had ever been to his house.
Morales' defense attorney, Mark Resnick, told the judge his client didn't remember ever meeting the victim and was not responsible for stealing the items. Morales' only involvement in the theft ring was pawning jewelry that came to him, Resnick said.
Some of the stolen items were recovered during the Sheriffs' Department's investigation, but about $1 million worth of items remain unaccounted for, Jette said.
The victim, whom the Star is not identifying for safety reasons, said he began selling jewelry to earn money after retirement. Since the theft, he has had to take freelance jobs to help make up for some of his losses. He also said some of the items stolen belonged to family members who died in Europe during World War II and were the only connection to the family's history.
Resnick asked for a mitigated sentence because this was Morales' first felony, because he accepted responsibility by pleading guilty, and because he is responsible for caring for six kids.
Nichols gave Morales the presumptive sentence.
Morales' wife, Francisca Morales, 36, abandoned the family when the charges against her came out, Resnick said.
A warrant was also issued for the arrest of Leticia Guadalupe Solis, who has also not been located.
Anyone with information about their whereabouts is asked to call 911 or 88-CRIME.
Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4224.
On StarNet: If you want to know more about crime in Tucson, check out the StarNet Police Beat blog at azstarnet.com/policebeat