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September 22, 2022Brownsville, TX, United StatesNarcotics

Army National Guardsman sentenced to prison for trafficking cocaine following HSI, federal partner investigation

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A Central Texas man and active-duty Army National Guardsman was sentenced to federal prison for possession with intent to distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine, following an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jonathan Zarazua, 28, of Austin, was sentenced Sept. 20 by a federal judge to serve 50 months in federal prison to immediately followed by three years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Zarazua was responsible for trafficking numerous loads of illegal narcotics. Zarazua pleaded guilty Jan. 13.

“This sentence sends a clear message that there are consequences for trafficking narcotics,” said Craig Larrabee, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. “HSI along with our law enforcement partners will continue working tirelessly to bring to justice all those who participate in the illicit drug trade.”

According to court documents, on Sept. 11, 2021, Zarazua attempted to enter the United States through the Brownsville and Matamoros Bridge in Brownsville. He claimed he was returning after visiting his father in Mexico. At secondary inspection, an X-ray scan of his vehicle revealed anomalies and officers ultimately discovered 6.62 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a false compartment under the center console. At the time of his arrest, Zarazua was an active-duty Army National Guardsman employed as a petroleum supply specialist. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army from 2016 to 2020.

Zarazua admitted to smuggling the cocaine for individuals in Mexico and to having smuggled drugs into the United States on at least 30 other occasions. He further admitted he was specifically recruited because he could use his military status to facilitate crossing the border with illegal narcotics. Zarazua remains in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined soon.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Edgardo J. Rodriguez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 Special Agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 86 overseas locations in 55 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.