Sixteen Marines were arrested during battalion formation at Camp Pendleton Thursday, accused of illegal activities ranging from drug-related offenses to human smuggling, officials said.
Officials with the 1st Marine Division of the U.S. Marine Corps said representatives with Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) were also involved in what they called the “mass arrests.”
The Marines — all E-2 to E-4 in rank — were arrested based on information gained from a previous human smuggling investigation, military officials said.
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NBC 7 first reported the news that two Camp Pendleton-based Marines were arrested earlier this month and accused of transporting undocumented immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border near Tecate.
U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested Lance Corporals Byron Law II and David Salazar-Quintero on July 3 in east San Diego County. The agents reportedly saw three undocumented immigrants jump into the Marines’ car on Interstate 8, just north of the border.
According to a federal complaint obtained by NBC 7, the undocumented immigrants told border agents they had agreed to pay the Marines $8,000 to take them north from the border to Los Angeles, eventually intending to head to New Jersey.
A USMC spokesperson said the arrested Marines could be charged in military court or federal court. None of the Marines in question served in support of the Southwest Border Support mission.
An additional eight Marines were taken aside and questioned on alleged drug offenses but officials say that investigation is not related to today's arrests.
More than 42,000 active duty personnel work on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
The base, located on the coast near Oceanside, California, also hosts thousands of Marine reservists for annual training on its firing ranges, Urban Terrain facilities and training areas.
No other information was available.
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