BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS (ValleyCentral) — A man charged in the drug case against former Progreso school board President Francisco “Frank” Alanis pleaded guilty Wednesday.
Juan Pablo Serrata, 48, of Santa Rosa worked for a drug trafficking organization that smuggled cocaine from Brownsville to Houston.
Truckers would park tractor-trailers on Serrata’s property in Santa Rosa, where the cocaine would be placed in hidden compartments.
“The defendant furthered the conspiracy by making the after-market compartments to hide the controlled substances,” Assistant U.S. Attorney William F. Hagen said during a hearing on Wednesday.
Serrata worked for a man named David Gomez-Ramos, who supplied the drug trafficking organization with cocaine, Hagen said. Truckers would transport the cocaine to Houston, where a man named Ralph Lozano would accept the drug shipments.
Alanis, the former president of the Progreso school board, also participated in the conspiracy, according to the indictment. Documents filed by prosecutors don’t include any details about what, exactly, Alanis did or when he became involved.
Lozano pleaded guilty in May. The charges against Gomez-Ramos and Alanis remain pending.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration detained Serrata in March 2022, when agents searched a home in Santa Rosa.
Agents found two semi-automatic rifles and two handguns on the property, along with a small amount of cocaine.
The DEA suspected that Serrata, a Mexican citizen, had no legal status in the United States. Agents contacted Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“He declined to be interviewed,” Eli Rocha Jr., a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, said during a hearing in March 2022.
Serrata was charged with being an alien in possession of a firearm, which is a federal felony. The government also placed an immigration detainer on Serrata.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan set bail at $25,000.
“Now, I’m going to tell you, Mr. Serrata, it’s extremely unlikely that, given this situation, that you would be able to post — that you would be able to meet that immigration detainer,” Morgan said during a hearing in March 2022. “But those are the conditions of bond.”
Nine months after his arrest, a grand jury indicted Serrata for participating in a conspiracy that involved more than 11 pounds of cocaine.
The indictment linked Serrata to six other people, including Gomez-Ramos, Lozano and Alanis.
Serrata returned to court Wednesday afternoon, when he pleaded guilty to both the gun charge and the drug charge.
Sentencing is scheduled for February. Serrata faces a minimum of 10 years in federal prison.