McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — An Army National Guardsman from Texas has been sentenced to four years in prison for illegally transporting cocaine across the South Texas border, the Justice Department announced.

Jonathan Zarazua, 28, of Austin, must serve 50 months in federal prison and then three years of supervised release after pleading guilty for possession with intent to distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine, U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery of the Southern District of Texas announced.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr., on Tuesday in Brownsville issued the sentence. Rodriguez said Zarazua was responsible for trafficking numerous loads of illegal narcotics.

According to the Justice Department, Zarazua was stopped and questioned on September 11, 2021, while trying to cross at a port of entry from Matamoros, Mexico, into Brownsville. He was sent to a secondary inspection area where an X-ray scan of his vehicle “revealed anomalies” and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found “6.62 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a false compartment under the center console.”

In January, Zarazua admitted to smuggling cocaine from the United States into Mexico and from Mexico into the United States on at least 30 other occasions, Justice officials said.

“He further admitted he was specifically recruited because he could use his military status to facilitate crossing the border with illegal narcotics,” according to a Justice Department statement.

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

At the time of his arrest, Zarazua was on active duty with the Texas Army National Guard. He served with the U.S. Army from 2016 to 2020.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com