18 U.S. Marines, one sailor arrested for alleged crimes including human smuggling and drug-related offenses


Citing the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) media reports including CNN Wires said on July 27, 2019 and on later dates:

Three more Camp Pendleton-based service members — two Marines and a sailor — have been arrested, bringing to 19 the total arrests in a sweeping human smuggling and drug probe.

Jeff Houston, an NCIS spokesperson, said the two Marines are attached to the same unit — 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment — as the 16 Marines arrested at morning formation Thursday. The sailor, Houston said, is a corpsman assigned to Camp Pendleton. NCIS has not named any of the 19 suspects.

“Out of respect for the privacy of the implicated Marines, we will not release names or other identifying information until charges are announced,” Marine Maj. Kendra Motz said in a statement Friday.

A Marine official not authorized to comment on the case said Friday he expected charges to be filed early next week.

The other 16 Marines were arrested Thursday morning during battalion formation on the parade deck in the San Mateo area of the base, said Marine spokesperson 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh.

“It was a public display for the entire unit to see,” he said.

The 16 Marines ranged in rank from private first class to corporal, or E-2 to E-4.

Houston said he could not comment on the ranks of the two Marines and the sailor who were arrest later.

All of the arrested service members are being held at the Camp Pendleton brig.

They are expected to be prosecuted in the military court system.

The Marine Corps said information from a previous human smuggling investigation led to the arrests.

On July 3, two Marines — Byron Darnell Law II and David Javier Salazar-Quintero — were arrested by Border Patrol agents for allegedly transporting unauthorized immigrants.

According to U.S. District Court documents, Border Patrol (BP) agents saw Law and Salazar-Quintero, both lance corporals, pull their vehicle off Interstate 8 around 10 a.m. near Jacumba Hot Springs and pick up three unauthorized immigrants.

When BP stopped the vehicle some time later, the three immigrants were in the back seat. Both allegedly spoke to federal agents after waiving their rights to an attorney.

Law was driving, and Salazar-Quintero was in the passenger seat. Three passengers in the back of the car told they were Mexican citizens, had no immigration papers and were not permitted to enter the U.S., according to the complaint.

The three immigrants apprehended from the back of Law’s car told BP agents that they would made arrangements to be smuggled into the U.S. and had been told via cell phone to get into Law’s car.

Two of the migrants said they were planning to pay $8,000 to be smuggled into the country, the complaint says. One planned to travel to Los Angeles, the other to New Jersey.

The driver and passenger, under questioning, began pointing fingers at one another, the complaint says, detailing their involvement in a smuggling operation.

According to their service records supplied by the U.S. Marine Corps, both of the men charged earlier in the month are riflemen with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. They have been awarded the National Defense and Global War on Terrorism service medals.

Capt. Christopher Harrison, Marine Corps spokesperson, previously told CNN that the corps is “aware of the charges facing Lance Cpl. Law and Lance Cpl. Salazar-Quintero.”

“We continue to cooperate fully with the investigative efforts into this matter,” he said earlier this month.

According to the federal court complaint, both Marines said they worked with an unidentified recruiter who told them where to go. Both men blamed each other for getting him involved in the scheme, according to court documents.

They were arraigned in federal court in San Diego on July 8. Attorneys for Law and Salazar-Quintero declined to comment on the case Thursday.

The arrests took place in a dramatic fashion on Thursday morning at Camp Pendleton, California, during a battalion formation.

“Information gained from a previous human smuggling investigation precipitated the arrests,” a statement from the Marine Corps said. “None of the Marines arrested or detained for questioning served in support of the Southwest Border Support mission.”

Eight other Marines were also questioned on their involvement in alleged drug offenses unrelated to the current arrests, the Marine Corps said.

A US official told CNN that Thursday’s arrests are related to an incident that occurred earlier this month in which two Marines from Camp Pendleton were charged with transporting undocumented immigrants for financial gain.

None of those arrested or detained on Thursday was serving in support of the military’s mission along the border with Mexico, the Marine Corps said.

Unlike Salazar and Law, the Marines faced prosecution under the military justice system.

Navy SEALs sent home from Iraq

Thursday’s arrests come one day after the U.S. military took the rare step of sending home an elite team of Navy SEALs from Iraq due to “a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline” that caused a military commander to lose “confidence in the team’s ability to accomplish the mission.”

“The commander of the Special Operations Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (in Iraq) ordered the early redeployment of a SEAL Team platoon to San Diego due to a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline within the team during non-operational periods,” US Special Operations Command said in a statement Wednesday.

“The Commander lost confidence in the team’s ability to accomplish the mission,” the statement added.

A U.S. Defense Department official familiar with the situation told CNN that the unusual step of sending the team home was due to allegations regarding the consumption of alcohol during their downtime, which is a violation of general orders issued to troops participating in overseas campaigns.

The official added that there is no evidence the alcohol consumption happened on missions and there is no evidence of drug use.

A fact-finding investigation has been initiated.

The disciplined service members were members of SEAL Team 7, according to multiple defense officials.


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