13 Marine Lance Corporals Charged in Connection with Major Human Smuggling Scheme

Camp Pendleton, Calif., sign. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Camp Pendleton, Calif., sign. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

More than a dozen California-based infantry Marines are headed to military court over their alleged roles in a widespread effort to smuggle people into the U.S. from Mexico.

The 13 junior Marines, all of whom are based at Camp Pendleton about 65 miles from the Mexico border, have been formally charged for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Charges include: failure to obey an order, drunkenness, endangerment offenses, larceny, perjury and violating a general article.

Nine of the Marines were charged with general article violations. Marine officials said on Friday that all of those violations "refer specifically to alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants."

Troops typically face general article violations when their alleged crimes don't fit into other sections of the UCMJ.

Related: 16 Marines Nabbed During Morning Formation on Drug-, People-Smuggling Charges

The Marine Corps named two of the 13 Marines who'd been charged: Lance Cpls. Byron Darnell Law II and David Javier Salazar-Quintero, both with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.

Law and Salazar were pulled over by a U.S. Border Patrol agent on July 3, near the U.S.-Mexico border. The two were arrested for "allegedly transporting and conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants," according to the Marine Corps statement, and have been charged with violating a general article.

A week after their arrest, another lance corporal assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was detained by border patrol personnel.

That Marine, whose identity has not been revealed, was charged with failure to obey an order; endangerment offenses; and a general-article violation for allegedly transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants.

Related: 12 Marines Confined at Pendleton for Allegedly Smuggling Undocumented Immigrants

Ten more lance corporals with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, were detained by Naval Criminal Investigative Service personnel during a July 25 battalion formation for alleged human smuggling operations and drug-related offenses.

None of those Marines were named by officials.

  • One of the lance corporals was charged with drunkenness.
  • Three were charged with perjury.
  • Five face general-article violation charges for allegedly transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants.
  • One was charged with failure to obey an order, larceny, and a general-article violation for allegedly transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants.

None of the Marines were involved in the military's mission along the U.S-Mexico border. All of the accused remain innocent until proven guilty, officials said in the statement.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Smugglers Offer Cash to Troops, Others to Drive Migrants

Show Full Article