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A 26-year-old former Marine from San Diego, Roberto Salazar II, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison on Friday for his involvement in smuggling drugs from Mexico into the United States.

Court records indicate that Salazar was convicted of importing fentanyl and conspiring to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl. Although he pleaded guilty in October, he could have faced a life sentence.

According to prosecutors, Salazar began participating in drug smuggling before joining the Marine Corps and continued while on active duty. Both Salazar and the couriers he recruited made numerous trips across the border to transport drugs. He would acquire cars that were driven to Mexico, where drugs would be hidden in the engine compartments before couriers drove them back into the U.S.

Authorities believe that Salazar’s smuggling operation began around 2015. By the time of his arrest last year, he had become so deeply involved in drug trafficking that he even commissioned a Mexican songwriter to create a “narcocorrido,” a drug ballad, about his exploits. The U.S. attorney’s office shared a line from the song that Salazar suggested to the songwriter, which read, “I wanted to study and became a soldier, but I liked the fast life better.”

Several of the couriers recruited by Salazar were former Marines or classmates from Southwestern College in Chula Vista. U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman commented on the case, saying, “This case involved a Marine who was supposed to protect and defend our country, but instead brought great harm to Americans by trafficking fentanyl and other dangerous drugs.” Grossman also noted that Salazar betrayed his oath by involving other Marines in the illegal activities.


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