Thirteen U.S. Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton in California were formally charged Friday for various crimes, including human smuggling, endangerment, larceny, and perjury. The investigation was launched after two lance corporals were arrested in July for allegedly smuggling three undocumented immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Two of the Marines, Lance Cpl. Byron D. Law and Lance Cpl. David J. Salazar-Quintero, both members of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division… were arrested by border patrol personnel on July 3, 2019 for allegedly transporting and conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants,” the 1st Marine Division Press Office wrote in a statement.
On July 3, Border Patrol agents arrested Law and Salazar-Quintero after noticing their vehicle pull off the highway onto a dirt turnaround. According to the criminal complaint, Law was driving with Salazar-Quintero in the passenger seat and three undocumented immigrants in the backseat.
Under questioning, Law accused Salazar-Quintero of organizing the human smuggling operation, while Salazar-Quintero accused Law of introducing him to the smuggling racket. According to the undocumented immigrants, they communicated with the Marines via cellphone and intended to pay $8,000 to be smuggled into the country.
On July 25, the 1st Marine Division along with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) arrested 16 Marines at Camp Pendleton for participating in illegal activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses. Of those arrested that day, ten jarheads have been formally charged.
On Friday, the 1st Marine Division Press Office announced that at least 13 Marines will face military court proceedings for alleged violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Four of the Camp Pendleton-based Marines who were detained in the human smuggling investigation were not specifically charged with smuggling. They face other charges, including failure to obey orders, drunkenness, endangerment, larceny, and perjury.