Thirteen Marines charged in human smuggling investigation at Camp Pendleton
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 20, 2019
Thirteen Marines suspected of participating in human smuggling operations were formally charged after spending nearly two months detained at Camp Pendleton, Calif., officials announced Friday.
The charges against the Marines — all of whom are lance corporals serving in two battalions of the 1st Marine Division — vary, but include larceny, perjury, drunkenness and failure to obey an order, according to a news release from the 1st Marine Division. Some of the Marines also face a general article charge, a catch-all violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice that for this investigation relates to allegations of transporting or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants.
Two of the charged Marines — Lance Cpls. Byron D. Law and David J. Salazar-Quintero, both members of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment — were named in the news release because they face similar charges in the federal court system. The remaining Marines charged will face Article 32 hearings, which is an investigative hearing to determine whether charges against a servicemember warrant a court-martial. The Marines will be named if the charges lead to a court-martial, said Maj. Kendra Motz, a division spokeswoman.
The criminal activity within the division came to light when U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested Law and Salazar-Quintero on July 3 for attempting to smuggle three people from Mexico across the U.S. border. Aside from federal human smuggling charges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, both Marines now face a general article charge from the Marine Corps.
During the investigation into Law and Salazar-Quintero, officials discovered other Marines were involved in illegal activity and on July 25, 16 Marines were detained during morning formation, according to information previously released by the division.
One Marine with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, who was detained by border patrol personnel on July 10, has been charged with failure to obey an order, endangerment offenses and a general article, according to the new release.
The remaining 10 Marines facing charges are members of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and were detained by Naval Criminal Investigative Service during the July morning formation. The charges for that group include one Marine charged with drunkenness, one Marine with perjury, five charged with a general article and one charged with failure to obey an order, larceny and a general article.
None of the Marines arrested or detained for questioning served in support of the military mission along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the release.