A 35-year-old man has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for leading a long-running multistate drug-trafficking organization that used several addresses in south Minneapolis for an operation that moved hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine and other illicit drugs worth millions of dollars while maintaining close ties to a murderous Mexican drug cartel.
Carlos Mendoza Serrato, of Minneapolis, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute meth. After his release from prison, he will be under court-ordered supervision for five years.
From June 2015 through October 2018, Serrato organized and carried out a drug-trafficking operation throughout Minnesota that reached other states as well, according to the defendant's guilty plea and court documents.
Prosecutors pinpointed four stash houses where the drugs and proceeds were stored. They were in the 2400 block of Elliott Avenue, the 3100 and 3700 blocks of Cedar Avenue and the 2700 block of Stevens Avenue. A fifth was in St. Paul in the 1000 block of Cromwell Avenue.
The investigation stretched from Minnesota into South Dakota, Kansas and all the way to California, and it involved personnel from the federal Department of Homeland Investigations, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Minneapolis Police Department.
In particular, Minneapolis police officers Ross Lapp and Ricardo Muro, and Homeland Security Investigations special agent Chad Visger were singled out Tuesday during an awards ceremony for their roles in busting Serrato.
The probe of the operation, which had ties to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and dates back to 2011, led to the indictment of Serrato and 12 others. Police said Serrato's family in Mexico also is closely aligned with the cartel's leadership.
The Minnesota investigation resulted in the seizure of firearms, along with 432 pounds of methamphetamine, 48.4 pounds of cocaine and 28.5 pounds of heroin — a haul with a street value of roughly $7.1 million. Also seized in connection with the conspiracy, according to law enforcement, were 16 loose diamonds, $1.7 million in cash, a luxury SUV and other vehicles.
Prior to sentencing, Serrato's defense argued in a court filing for a term of as little as 10 years and no more than just shy of 20 years, pointing out his lack of a serious criminal history. The prosecution pushed for a term topping 24 years.
A sister of Serrato's living in California weighed in with a letter to Judge Joan Ericksen in hopes of influencing the sentence. Maria Serrato said her brother was a promising soccer player whose dream of playing pro fell short because the family couldn't afford the training.
She called her brother, who became a father about a year ago, "a good-hearted person. I do not understand how he could have made this mistake. He is a very noble, calm person."