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U.S. Marine gets 12 years for cross-border drug smuggling

This Sept. 12, 2021 photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows drugs concealed inside the engine of a car.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP
This Sept. 12, 2021 photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows drugs concealed inside the engine of a car.

SAN DIEGO — A former Marine who for years helped smuggle drugs from Mexico into the United States and even tried to get a song written to glorify his exploits was sentenced Friday to 12 years in federal prison.

Roberto Salazar II, 26, of San Diego was sentenced for importing fentanyl and for conspiracy to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.

Salazar, who pleaded guilty last October, could have faced up to life in prison.

He was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. Prosecutors said that before joining the corps and while on active duty, he and couriers he recruited made dozens of smuggling trips across the border.

Salazar would obtain cars that were driven to Mexico, where drugs were loaded into the engine compartments. Couriers would then drive them back across the border into the U.S., prosecutors said.

The scheme began around 2015, authorities said.

By the time of his arrest last year, "Salazar had become so involved in drug trafficking that he was commissioning a Mexican songwriter to write a drug ballad known as a 'narcocorrido about him," the U.S. attorney's office said.

"In one line that Salazar suggested to the songwriter, he boasted: 'I wanted to study and became a soldier, but I liked the fast life better,'" the office said.

Some of the couriers recruited by Salazar were former Marines or classmates at Southwestern College in Chula Vista.

"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," U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said. "He also betrayed his solemn oath by recruiting other Marines to do the same."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
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