A former pre-law student from Tijuana was sentenced to federal prison on Monday for running a drug trafficking cell that used Mexican teenagers who attended high school in San Diego as cross-border smugglers.

Osvaldo Mendivil Tamayo, 22, pleaded guilty last year to two counts of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine. A federal judge on Monday sentenced him to seven years and one month in prison and fined him $ 50,000.

Mendivil Tamayo admitted in his plea agreement that he was “the head of a drug distribution cell based in Tijuana” and that he maintained a “cadre of couriers” to deliver drugs through ports of entry. from the San Diego area.

According to prosecutors in the Southern California District Attorney’s Office, Mendivil admitted he was the transportation coordinator for several sources that provided the drugs.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized at least 330 pounds of drugs related to Mendivil and his couriers during an investigation that resulted in the arrest of Mendivil and his alleged co-conspirators in 2019.

According to federal prosecutors and court documents, Mendivil has used the social media app Snapchat to conduct much of his business. Investigators tapped his Snapchat account and, within weeks, intercepted images of tables stacked with drug bricks and close-ups showing the quality of the narcotics.

It was also on his Snapchat account where his accomplices would send him information about potential couriers. The messages often contained photographs of students’ identity cards issued by government and schools, as well as information on how, when and where they typically crossed the border.

Some of the posts showed that underage couriers would carry the drugs as they passed through ports of entry in vehicles with their unsuspecting mothers and fathers.

Mendivil’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Mendivil’s arrest came at a time when San Diego-based federal authorities warned that teen trafficking has become a troubling trend that has recently resurfaced. In fiscal 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection documented 87 incidents of minors attempting to smuggle a total of 307 pounds of miscellaneous narcotics through ports of entry along the California-California border. Mexico, according to agency records.

According to the lawyer initially appointed to represent him, Mendivil was living with his mother at the time of his arrest and doing bookkeeping work for his father, CEO of a construction company in Tijuana. He was studying pre-law at CETYS University in Tijuana before taking a hiatus about six months before his arrest, but had planned to return to school this fall and focus on business administration.

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