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Patrick Springer, Published January 09 2009

Man sentenced to 20 years for using minor to peddle methamphetamines

Patricio Alcorta had an enterprising apprentice one cohort called a “junior hustler.”

The sidekick was a go-getter, the sort of motivated salesman who would line up sales even before the goods arrived.

But there was a problem: Alcorta’s assistant was a 17-year-old boy, and their trade was peddling methamphetamines.

Alcorta, a 29-year-old Moorhead man, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for his leadership role in the drug-trafficking ring.

That sentence was the mandatory minimum, but about two years short of the sentence sought by federal prosecutors, who wanted a stiffer penalty for a man who exploited a minor.

“He moved large quantities of meth into the area,” said Chris Myers, assistant U.S. attorney, urging a stiff sentence for Alcorta, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell illegal drugs.

Alcorta’s juvenile assistant served as a lieutenant who was involved as a courier and dealer, according to testimony by Wes Libner, a Fargo police narcotics detective and member of a Drug Enforcement Agency task force.

A co-defendant once overheard Alcorta telling his young lieutenant, “You’re a good salesman,” Libner said.

Some of the quantities the juvenile handled were large, including one 16-ounce transaction, Libner said. The

boy also was seen using methamphetamines in Alcorta’s presence.

Timothy Richard, Alcorta’s defense lawyer, said an enhanced prison sentence wouldn’t be appropriate in light of Alcorta’s guilty plea.

“Mr. Alcorta has accepted responsibility,” he told U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson.

“I have nothing to say, your honor,” said Alcorta, dressed in his orange jail jumpsuit.

The judge said he was bothered that Alcorta involved a minor in his illegal drug operation, but said the 20-year mandatory minimum sentence was adequate punishment.

“My hope is he attains sobriety and gains the ability to rebuild his life,” Erickson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522