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Sat Apr 22, 2023, 01:04 PM Apr 2023

Former Miramar Marine gets 12 years in prison for running trafficking cell while on active duty

Roberto Salazar II joined the Marine Corps in 2018. But before and during his military service, he was recruiting, managing and paying drug couriers

In the summer of 2020, a young man from San Diego who was running a cross-border drug-trafficking cell tried to commission a narcocorrido — a drug ballad — about his exploits. He wanted the song to contain lyrics about his abilities as a soldier — not as a cartel gunman, but as a United States Marine.

Two years later, while still on active duty in the Marine Corps, Roberto Salazar II was arrested on several drug-trafficking charges. He eventually pleaded guilty to two felony counts, and on Friday U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino sentenced Salazar to 12 years in prison.

“Roberto Salazar served as a Marine, but he was also leading a secret life as a drug trafficker and a leader of a drug-trafficking organization,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said Friday morning outside the downtown federal courthouse. “He was supposed to be protecting and defending our country, but instead he was bringing tremendous harm to Americans by importing fentanyl and other deadly, dangerous drugs into the United States.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Miller told Sammartino that Salazar, 26, ran a prolific drug-trafficking cell for many years, both before and after he joined the Marine Corps in 2018. Salazar admitted in his plea agreement to recruiting two recently discharged Marines to smuggle drugs across the border.

His service, mostly at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar as a radio operator, “was just a costume,” Miller said. “It was just a front.”

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