FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A 31-year-old Texas man pleads guilty to Tulare County drug distribution conspiracy and federal gun charges, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

Malachai Serrano pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana and using a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, Talbert says.

According to court documents, the charges arose from a long-term investigation that uncovered evidence of a scheme involving the trade of illegal drugs sourced in Mexico and California for firearms sourced in Texas. 

In 2021, officials say a team of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers partnered in an investigation into a group of Tulare County Surenos street gang members. 

Part of the investigation focused on Serrano and his associates, who were involved in shipping illegal drugs and firearms across state lines.

Between April 6, 2021, and Dec. 17, 2021, Talberts says Serrano’s associates, including Jonathan Gallegos, 32, of Ivanhoe, shipped kilograms of marijuana and methamphetamine from post offices in Central California to residences in San Antonio, Texas. Serrano and his associates shipped firearms back to Gallegos and his associates in California as payment for the narcotics they had received. Serrano is a felon who cannot lawfully possess firearms.

On Oct. 11, 2022, Gallegos pleaded guilty; he is scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, 2023.

Serrano is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Ana de Alba. Serrano faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and up to life in prison.