'American Idol' ex-star Antonella Barba pleads guilty, faces 10 years to life
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato discusses his concern with fentanyl
NORFOLK, Virginia - Antonella Barba, formerly of "American Idol" and "Fear Factor" fame, likely will spend at least a decade behind bars after pleading guilty in federal court in Virginia on Tuesday to possession of at least 400 grams of fentanyl with intent to distribute.
The guilty plea carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court. She could face a possible life sentence and up to $10 million in fines, as well as asset forfeiture, according to the agreement.
She is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 21 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.
The 32-year-old singer, who grew up on the Jersey Shore, was first arrested on Duke Street in Norfolk in October 2018. She originally was charged with selling or intending to sell 100 grams or more of heroin, according to Virginia court records. She denied the initial charges.
Those state charges were later supplanted by federal charges of possession with intent and conspiracy, according to court records.
According to a statement of facts filed in connection with the plea agreement, investigators had been tracking Justin Michael "Cali" Isaac of California, believing he "was a source for kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin."
On Oct. 11, 2018, they determined he was heading to a "stash" apartment in Norfolk from Washington, D.C., but then listened in on a phone call in which Isaac said he was sending a woman to deliver drugs, according to the statement.
Investigators staking out the apartment found Barba there in a car, a shoebox of fentanyl on the floor, according to the statement. You can learn more about fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, in the video at the top of this article.
Isaac and several other defendants also were named in the same federal indictment as Barba.
According to the plea agreement, she has agreed to cooperate with authorities, testify at any hearing and take polygraph tests at the government's request.
Barba was one of the top 16 contestants on "Idol's" sixth season in 2007 before she was eliminated. She also appeared on "Fear Factor" in 2012.
Barba had been confined to a family home in Point Pleasant under court order. It was unclear if she remains there or had been taken into custody following her plea.
Barba's attorney, James Broccoletti, declined to comment.
Alex N. Gecan has covered crime in New Jersey since 2016. His work as a reporter and editor has earned him professional awards in Connecticut, Louisiana and New Jersey for public service, business reporting and features. Contact him at email@example.com or 732-643-4043 or follow him on Twitter @GeeksterTweets.