News Branch Marine Corps

Former Marine convicted of drug smuggling wanted to commission ballad of his criminal exploits

“I wanted to study and became a soldier, but I liked the fast life better."
Max Hauptman Avatar
Roberto Salazar II Marine Corps drug trafficking narcocorrido
Roberto Salazar II in an undated photo (Image via U.S. Justice Department court documents)

Before Roberto Salazar II was arrested last year, he was by all outward appearances an upstanding active-duty Marine, serving as a radio operator at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California. 

But behind the scenes, both before and during his Marine Corps service, he for years ran a drug trafficking ring, recruiting others – including two recently-discharged fellow Marines – to smuggle drugs over the U.S.-Mexico border. 

According to prosecutors, Salazar — who was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison last Friday — was so proud of his extensive off-duty activities that he was even trying to commission an original song to commemorate his drug trafficking exploits.

“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,” according to a statement from the Justice Department. 

Corrido is a popular genre of Mexican folk music of which narcocorridos are a sub-genre. Narcocorridos are typically ballads dedicated to telling “stories of drug lords, arrests, shootouts, daring operations, and betrayals,” according to National Public Radio.

Subscribe to Task & Purpose Today. Get the latest military news, entertainment, and gear in your inbox daily.

According to information seized from Salazar’s phone when he was arrested, the Marine was in contact with a Mexican songwriter, discussing potential lyrics for his own narcocorrido that would both his prowess as a drug smuggler as well as his military service. 

“‘I wanted to study and became a soldier, but I liked the fast life better,’” was one lyrical suggestion from Salazar, according to the Justice Department. 

Salazar pleaded guilty last year to charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl, as well as importation of fentanyl. 

“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 at Salazar’s sentencing last Friday. “He also betrayed his solemn oath by recruiting other Marines to do the same.”

“Through this case, the defendant has been held to account for his crimes and we have dismantled yet another link in the supply chain for the deadly narcotics that are indiscriminately killing members of our community,” Grossman added. 

According to court documents, Salazar began trafficking narcotics in 2013, when he was just 16. In 2016, one classmate at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California who Salazar recruited reportedly drove a car loaded with more than five pounds of cocaine and more than 20 pounds of methamphetamines through the San Ysidro Port of Entry into the U.S., according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

Salazar enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2018, where prosecutors say his only significant break in criminal activity occurred when he was going through recruit training. After joining the Corps, Salazar successfully maintained his drug ring for years, both smuggling the product himself and recruiting others to do so. His organization reportedly favored luxury sedans, specifically BMWs, because the engine compartments of those vehicles were supposedly more suitable for evading detection, per the San Diego Union-Tribune

“This is my first and last time I’m ever going to be in trouble,” Salazar said at his sentencing last week, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. In the meantime, twelve years is plenty of time to work on some other verses for that narcocorrido.

The latest on Task & Purpose