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Serrano Gets 20 Years for His Role in Cocaine Deal

Times Staff Writer

As his wife and sister wept, a Laguna Niguel man received a maximum 20-year prison sentence Monday for what authorities said was his key role in a 100-kilogram cocaine deal.

“I remain convinced you were a participant and not a minor participant in a very major drug operation,” U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson told Daniel Serrano before imposing the sentence in a Los Angeles federal court.

Serrano, 39, was arrested on Dec. 6, 1985, in El Toro after federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents followed him and another man to an industrial area of Los Angeles. There, agents observed Serrano moving boxes from a tractor-trailer with a Florida license plate into his 1985 Toyota van. The boxes contained 94% pure cocaine.

Serrano subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

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“You made a tragic error and there is nothing I can do about it,” Wilson said.

In a shaky voice, Serrano told Wilson, “I know I committed a crime and have to be punished.”

Had Quit Job

A former mid-level executive with Xerox Corp., Serrano quit his job about two months before his arrest. His attorneys said Serrano intended to go into business with his wife, but the government prosecutor contended that Serrano really intended to pursue drug sales full-time.

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Serrano’s sentencing comes in the wake of an April 4 cocaine bust believed to be the largest in Orange County history. In that case, Los Angeles police arrested nine South Americans for possessing 1,784 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $500 million. The case is pending in North Orange County Municipal Court.

In arguing for leniency, Serrano’s attorneys said their client “is a good, decent man” who was “imposed” upon by others who convinced him to distribute the cocaine.

“He violated the law after a long history of being a decent family man,” said Mitchell W. Egers, one of Serrano’s attorneys.

Serrano’s wife, brother and sister accompanied him to court. While his wife and sister wept, Serrano’s brother, Hernan, told the judge that he helped Serrano buy several luxury homes which government prosecutors allege were purchased with cocaine profits.

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The brother also said much of Serrano’s money came from the sale of cattle from a family ranch in Colombia--not from cocaine. Serrano’s attorneys added that the Laguna Niguel man only earned about $50,000 from his drug dealings.

Prosecutor Disagrees

However, Assistant U.S. Atty. John S. Gordon disagreed, saying Serrano was “obviously a high-echelon member of a major Colombian cocaine distribution organization.”

Gordon presented the judge with a copy of a ledger that was seized from Serrano’s home after his arrest. It contained 70 names and information relating to about $10 million in cocaine sales.

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“When the agents interviewed him, Serrano said he handled 100 kilogram (sales) because he was trusted,” Gordon said. “He is a high-level member of the organization.”

The U.S. attorney’s office has already filed lawsuits to seize three pieces of Orange County property allegedly purchased by Serrano with his drug profits. Federal law permits the seizure of property or goods purchased with proceeds from criminal activities.


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