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16 Marines arrested at Camp Pendleton on charges of human smuggling and drug-related offenses

A training image from Camp Pendleton. (Pvt. Robert Bliss/Marine Corps)
July 25, 2019

Sixteen U.S. Marines were arrested at Camp Pendleton in California on Thursday for offenses ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses, according to reports.

“1st Marine Division is committed to justice and the rule of law, and we will continue to fully cooperate with NCIS on this matter,” a Marine Corps statement said, Fox News reported. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process.”

The statement said the Marines were arrested for “alleged involvement in various illegal activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses,” Task & Purpose reported, adding that an additional eight Marines were questioned over drug-related allegations.

The arrests stemmed from a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation into two Marines who were earlier this month arrested for smuggling illegal aliens from Mexico into the U.S.

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Lance Cpl. Byron Darnell Law II and Lance Cpl. David Javier Salazar-Quintero of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. were arrested July 3 near Jacumba Hot Springs, Calif., around seven miles from the border with three illegal aliens in their vehicle, according to legal documents obtained by Quartz.

Both Marines now face federal charges of smuggling illegal aliens for the “purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain,” Quartz said, citing the court documents.

Law and Salazar-Quintero picked up the illegal aliens around 10 a.m. and were arrested just 17 minutes later.

Two of the three illegal aliens, who claimed to be Mexican citizens, disclosed to Border Patrol that they intended to pay $8,000 for U.S. entry. They said they were heading for Los Angeles and New Jersey.

Just the day before, the two Marines were offered $1,000 to pick up another illegal alien, whom they dropped off at a meeting point.

Law said that on July 2, the pair drove to Jacumba Hot Springs, picked up one illegal alien and dropped him off at a McDonald’s in Del Mar, per instructions they received via cell phone from an “unknown Mexico number.” Law also contends that they received no compensation.

Early on July 3, Law said Salazar-Quintero again reached out to him again, promising that they would get paid in cash for smuggling the one immigrant from the night before, and three additional ones that day.

Salazar-Quintero had a different story. He said Law was the ringleader of the pair and he was “introduced to smuggling” by Law, who promised $500 for each occasion.

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Salazar-Quintero also admitted to previous smuggling attempts, adding that there were “four different occasions” and not all of them were successful.

Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh said, “We are aware of the charges facing Lance Cpl. Law and Lance Cpl. Salazar-Quintero, and we continue to cooperate fully with the investigative efforts into this matter.”