A San Diego man will spend at least a decade behind bars after admitting he picked up a shipment of methamphetamine in the parking lot of a high school.
Alejandro Barba, 27, of San Diego pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to distribute meth. The guilty plea carries a 10-year minimum mandatory prison sentence.
Barba’s shipment – estimated to be five kilograms or the weight of a gallon of paint – was delivered to him by a courier who attended San Ysidro High School.
The defendant met with the courier in the school’s parking lot on Airway Road on May 1.
Soon after, he was arrested by the San Diego Sheriff’s Office Border Suppression Team.
Prosecutors said Barba told them this wasn’t the first time he picked up a drug shipment from a juvenile on school grounds.
NBC 7 has reported on the disturbing trend of juveniles working as drug couriers, carrying the illegal narcotics over the U.S.-Mexico border.
At times, the teenagers tape the packages to their bodies and attempt to conceal the drugs by wearing baggy clothing.
Prosecutors say the temptation is quick cash.
“These kids are 14, 15, 16, 17 years old. They just see the $400 that they’re making. They don’t look at the big picture,” Assistant U. S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson said in a May 2018 interview.
She said students at various high schools have been recruited including those at Castle Park High School and Chula Vista High School.
Federal prosecutors are working in partnership with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to examine how recruitment is happening at the high school level.
Barba’s next court appearance is on January 4, 2019, for sentencing before District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia.