McALLEN — A former Hidalgo County bailiff pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge in connection with an investigation into a drug trafficking organization, court records show.
During a re-arraignment hearing Friday in federal court, Oscar De La Cruz agreed to a plea agreement with government prosecutors that would allow him to avoid a jury trial, court documents show.
De La Cruz, who was facing several federal charges, including drug conspiracy, drug importation, and federal forgery charges, was originally indicted in early May on drug conspiracy charges. He was included in a multiple-defendant superseding indictment less than a month later and charged with forgery as well.
In a dramatic scene the evening of De La Cruz’s arrest on May 4, dozens of federal agents descended on the county courthouse to seize evidence from Hidalgo County Court-at-Law Judge Albert Garcia’s courtroom, where De La Cruz had served as a bailiff for at least two years.
The 53-year-old Pharr native is accused of playing a role in the movement of cocaine in conjunction with an unnamed drug trafficking organization between Jan. 14, 2016 to about Feb. 5, 2018, court documents show.
Government prosecutors allege that De La Cruz helped associates working with an unknown drug trafficking organization get their hands on falsified court documents to help facilitate the theft and reselling of cocaine — a common practice by those attempting to deceive the main supply source back in Mexico.
By producing an official court or police document, those stealing the illicit drugs can legitimize their loss of the product to the supply source, avoiding suspicion and severe punishment at the hands of the organization.
Prosecutors allege that while working along with drug trafficking associates, De La Cruz even forged the signature of a federal judge, former U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos who worked in the federal courthouse in McAllen.
De La Cruz, who in late May pleaded not guilty before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez to the charges he was facing, has now pleaded true to one count of a drug conspiracy.
In exchange prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining charges at the time of his sentencing, scheduled for later this year.
The ex-bailiff is one of 20 defendants, a former law enforcement officer among them, named in a superseding indictment, court records show.
That filing, which came less than a week after his initial arrest, alleged that Juan Fernando Mata, a former Donna ISD police officer, as well as Marin “Filtro” Macrin Cerda, Jose Miguel “El Mickey” Montemayor, Cesar Alejandro “Nucho” Tovar-Guillén (or “El Sobrino”), and others were part of a drug conspiracy.
Montemayor, of Mission, and Macrin Cerda, a Mexican national, were part of a group called “Los Mikis,” who were arrested in October 2017 in connection with a series of burglaries, intent to commit other felonies, and engaging in organized criminal activity, San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez said at the time of their arrests.
Montemayor, Cerda, Mata, and Tovar-Guillén, await sentencing in late January in connection with the conspiracy case, court records show.
Jorge Antonio Calvo-Ayala, 25, of Pharr pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. Alvarez sentenced him in May 2018 to 95 months in prison, court records show.
In addition to Calvo-Ayala’s conviction, Danny Cano, 30, Marylyn Gonzalez, 39, and Arturo “Petu” (or “Cholo”) Vargas, 35, all of Mission, were sentenced in August and October of 2018, respectively, in connection with the conspiracy.
Additional defendants connected to the “Los Mikis” case who pleaded guilty and are also pending sentencing include Miguel Marin “Tigre” Cerda, 30; Jose “Coco” Garcia-De La Torre, 22; Carlos Guadalupe “Tomy” Aquino-Pacheco, 20; Alfredo “Chore” Avalos-Sanchez, 26; Gustavo Angel “Tripa” De Leon-Covarrubias, 19; Jose Arturo “Gordo” Reyes-Sanchez, 19; Juan Antonio “Paisa” Flores; 27, and Antonio Javier “Little T” Gomez, 28, Sergio Alejandro Gallegos-Tovar, Francisco Javier Montemayor, and Robert Lee Rodriguez, court documents show.
The former county bailiff is due back in court March 20 for his sentencing hearing and faces up to 10 years in federal prison.