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'McGruff the Crime Dog' sent to prison for growing pot, possessing weapons

McGruff the Crime Dog says "take a bite out of crime!"
McGruff the Crime Dog says "take a bite out of crime!"Jimmy Butterman

The man who once taught children to "take a bite out of crime" as McGruff the Crime Dog, will spend the next 16 years in prison for possessing illegal guns and running what authorities in Texas called a major pot-growing operation, police sources announced Sunday, Feb. 9.

John R. Morales, 41, was stopped in fall 2011 after speeding through Galveston, Texas at 3 a.m. In his vehicle, police discovered dozens of marijuana plants and other elements of a grow operation.

Officers were overwhelmed by the smell of fresh marijuana when they stopped Morales, police said.

An ensuing investigation led state and federal authorities to the former Crime Dog's home, where officers seized more than 1,000 plants and 27 weapons: grenade launchers, sawed-off shotguns, assault rifles and more than 9,000 rounds of live ammunition.

A drug-sniffing dog assisted in the investigation.

Monday, Feb. 3, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore sentenced Morales to 16 years in the pen as part of a plea bargain. He pleaded guilty last year to avoid an even longer sentence.

Surprisingly, this wasn't the first time "McGruff" has been behind bars on similar charges. Morales did two years for possessing a homemade bomb and an illegal silencer.

However, Morales says he isn't a violent man and believes "take a bite out of crime" is solid advice. He says he got into the drug and gun game only to provide for his mother and sister, both of whom suffered from cancer.

"I have admitted to my guilt and my actions, whatever they were, I never really benefited," Morales told the court. "I have spent most of my life trying to help other people."

Gilmore didn't buy the former furry pitchman's plea for lenience, calling him "scary."

"Everything I read about you makes you seem like a scary person — guns and bomb and hand grenades," the judge said.

Charges against Morales were elevated because of his prior record and the involvement of weapons, court records showed.