HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A second former postal employee who helped deliver marijuana which was mailed from California to Huntington over a period of several years pled guilty today to a federal drug charge, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.
Michael Mason Morton, 54, entered a guilty plea to distribution of marijuana in federal court in Huntington. Stuart commended the investigative efforts of the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the West Virginia State Police – Violent Crime and Drug Task Force West.
“Yet another postal employee turned drug dealer,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “The postal employees engaged in this scheme abused their positions, turning postal delivery routes into drug trafficking routes. This was an incredibly egregious, long-term drug networking scheme operating from California to West Virginia. Those involved will be held accountable.”
On March 15, 2018, agents located two parcels containing marijuana at the Huntington Post Office which had been mailed from California. Agents observed Morton load the parcels into his postal delivery truck and drive to the Dollar General store located in the 800 block of Norway Avenue in Huntington. At that location, Morton provided the parcels to James Waylon Molinaro who arrived in a separate vehicle. A Trooper with the West Virginia State Police subsequently conducted a traffic stop of Molinaro’s vehicle in the 1000 block of 9th Street in Huntington and recovered the parcels. The parcels were found to contain a total of 16 pounds of marijuana.
As part of his plea, Morton admitted that, between 2015 and March of 2018, he conspired with Molinaro, Chris Crookshanks, and others to distribute marijuana in the Huntington area. During the conspiracy, Molinaro acquired marijuana in California and arranged for it to be shipped through the United States mail from California to Huntington. Once the parcels containing marijuana arrived in Huntington, Molinaro paid multiple postal employees, including Morton and Crookshanks who were letter carriers with the postal service, to deliver the parcels on their assigned delivery routes or to meet Molinaro at other locations to provide the parcels to him. Morton admitted that he was responsible for the delivery of up to 80 kilograms of marijuana during his participation in the conspiracy.
Molinaro pled guilty on August 1, 2019, to possession with intent to distribute marijuana based on his involvement in the conspiracy. Molinaro also pled guilty to prohibited possession of a firearm by a convicted felon stemming from an unrelated investigation and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 4, 2019. Crookshanks pled guilty on August 5, 2019, to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and is also scheduled to be sentenced on November 4, 2019.
Morton faces up to 5 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on November 4, 2019.
Assistant United States Attorney Joseph F. Adams is handling the prosecutions. The plea hearing was held before United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers.