A Summerville man will spend at least the next ten years of his life in federal prison after being convicted in connection with a major drug conspiracy that stretched across the nation.
A jury found Francisco Serrano, 34, of Summerville guilty of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, more than 50 grams of methamphetamine, and more than 500 grams of a substance containing methamphetamine, according to Bill Nettles, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina.
He was the eleventh person convicted in the case, Nettles said.
Senior United States District Judge Sol Blatt, Jr. presided over the jury trial and will impose a sentence in about 90 days after he has reviewed a pre-sentence report. Serrano faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment and can be sentenced to a maximum of life, Nettles said.
Evidence presented during the week-long trial established that Serrano partnered with Armando Ramirez to transport large quantities of cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and marijuana beginning in at least early 2009 after the two met at the Ladson Flea Market. The year-long investigation showed that Armando Ramirez headed up a South Carolina-based drug trafficking cell utilizing contacts within the La Familia drug cartel in Mexico, California, and Atlanta, Georgia to coordinate the transportation of narcotics from California to Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, and South Carolina for distribution. The cell also transported drug proceeds back to California, and distributed drugs locally in the Charleston area to lower-level dealers.
Serrano, born in Honduras and in the United States legally, owned and operated a trucking business, Serrano Brothers Trucking Company. He frequently shipped legitimate merchandise from South Carolina to various parts of the country, and returned with the same back to South Carolina. The evidence showed that Ramirez and Serrano began to coordinate their trips to Atlanta, Georgia and Anaheim, California in order to smuggle money and narcotics amongst Serrano’s legitimate loads. In March 2009, Serrano and Ramirez delivered 79 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and 3 kilograms of cocaine -- the street value of which exceeded $2 million -- to two co-conspirators who were later stopped by Dekalb County Police Department, at the request of DEA, shortly thereafter. Furthermore, the evidence showed that Serrano was involved with numerous other trips wherein he transported and delivered narcotics and money.
The case to date has resulted in the indictment of 16 defendants in South Carolina. Serrano is the 11th person convicted with the other defendants considered fugitives or awaiting extradition. Combined with the Georgia and California portions of the case, the case has resulted in more than 100 arrests, the seizure of hundreds of pounds of crystal methamphetamine, and approximately $10 million in U.S. currency. Moreover, this case was part of a nationwide, coordinated operation, Project Coronado, which targeted the La Familia Cartel. Eleven defendants have been convicted in the South Carolina case, and the remaining defendants are either fugitives or awaiting extradition to South Carolina, Nettles said.
Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force, which included agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration Customs Enforcement, Summerville Police Department, S.C. Highway Patrol, Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, DeKalb County Police Department, Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, and North Charleston Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorney Peter T. Phillips of the Charleston office handled the case, with assistance from Assistant United States Attorney Nick Bianchi.