A former Hidalgo County bailiff who provided court documents to drug traffickers pleaded guilty Friday.
Former Hidalgo County Court at Law #6 Bailiff Oscar De La Cruz, 53, of Pharr pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 5 kilograms of cocaine.
De La Cruz provided Hidalgo County court records — including criminal complaints, booking records and arrest warrants — to drug traffickers, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto “Bobby” Lopez Jr. He also forged three federal search warrants, which allowed smugglers to steal drugs from suppliers without drawing suspicion.
“I think that Oscar did the right thing,” said attorney Rick Salinas, who represents De La Cruz. “It’s a simple question: ‘Did you do this?’ He did.”
De La Cruz never actually handled drugs and wasn’t involved with violent crime, Salinas said. He started small, providing court records to an acquaintance.
“He knew these guys from way back when. That’s how some of this stuff started,” Salinas said, adding later: “It literally became a business. A side business.”
With charges pending against other defendants, both Lopez and Special Agent Michelle Lee, a spokeswoman for the FBI, declined to comment on the case.
The indictment, however, links De La Cruz to Los Mickys, a so-called “rip crew” that robbed Hidalgo County drug traffickers.
Key members of Los Mickys included Marin Macrin “Filtro” Cerda and his brother, Miguel Marin “Tigre” Cerda. Together with a rotating cast of criminals, they hijacked tractor-trailers, raided stash houses and swiped drug shipments from smugglers.
In February 2010, members of Los Mickys robbed a stash house on the northeast side of Edinburg.
Police swarmed the area. Attempting to avoid arrest, a member of Los Mickys sped north on U.S. 281 southbound and struck another car head-on.
The crash killed three people, including a 13-year-old girl.
After the robbery, members of Los Mickys met at a ranch near Alton. They split about 2,000 pounds of marijuana and a large amount of cash, according to information the Texas Department of Public Safety provided to Edinburg police investigators.
Miguel Cerda, who confessed to participating in the robbery, said he received about 60 pounds of marijuana and $1,500, according to Edinburg Police Department records. He pleaded guilty to burglary of habitation, a second-degree felony.
State District Judge Juan Partida sentenced Miguel Cerda to eight years in prison, but he didn’t serve the full sentence.
Los Mickys committed a dizzying number of home invasion-style robberies after Miguel Cerda left prison. They also terrorized innocent people.
In June 2017, members of Los Mickys held a McAllen family at gunpoint and ransacked their home, according to court records. When they didn’t find any drugs, the gunmen demanded money and fled.
They apparently had the wrong address.
McAllen Police Department detectives interviewed three members of Los Mickys, who confessed to the robbery.
They said Los Mickys originally worked for the Gulf Cartel, according to court records. When the Gulf Cartel splintered, forming rival factions, Los Mickys became a rip crew and started stealing from other smugglers.
How, exactly, De La Cruz became involved with Los Mickys remains unclear. Court records don’t indicate whether he dealt with them directly or through an intermediary.
De La Cruz worked for Hidalgo County Probate Judge Homero Garza and Hidalgo County Court at Law Judge Albert Garcia, which granted him access to a wide array of court records.
At some point, De La Cruz started accepting cash for court records.
He provided drug traffickers with arrest warrants, criminal complaints and jail booking records, among other documents, said Lopez, the prosecutor who handled the plea hearing Friday. The documents allowed drug traffickers to verify arrests and determine whether or not defendants were cooperating with prosecutors.
De La Cruz also sold federal court records.
He conducted more than 1,000 searches on PACER, a computer system that makes federal court records available to the public.
PACER, an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is available to anyone with an internet connection. Search results and court documents cost 10 cent per page.
“He got paid $500, $600 bucks to run the search,” Salinas said.
The most serious allegation against De La Cruz involved forging three federal search warrants.
When law enforcement seizes a drug shipment, suppliers frequently demand proof from the smuggler. The fake search warrants allowed smugglers to steal drugs from suppliers without drawing suspicion.
De La Cruz confessed to creating fake search warrants in November 2016, March 2017 and February 2018.
To make the March 2017 search warrant appear real, De La Cruz forged the signature of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos.
De La Cruz created the February 2018 warrant at the Hidalgo County Courthouse, Lopez said, adding that the document purported to show a 30 kilogram cocaine bust near Austin.
Prosecutors struck a deal with De La Cruz.
In exchange for pleading guilty to the drug conspiracy charge, prosecutors will recommend dismissal of another charge related to forging the search warrants.
“As serious as the charge sounds, my argument to the judge is that he’s a nominal player compared to everyone else on that list,” Salinas said, referring to the indictment.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 20. De La Cruz faces 10 years to life in prison.