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13 Camp Pendleton Marines charged in human smuggling operation

The main gate of Camp Pendleton Marine Base at Camp Pendleton.
The main gate of Camp Pendleton.
(Associated Press)

Thirteen Camp Pendleton-based Marines detained in a human smuggling probe in July are facing a variety of related charges under military law, the 1st Marine Division said Friday.

All 13 were charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the law governing the conduct of service members. Their charges include failure to obey orders, drunkenness, endangerment, larceny and perjury.

For the record:
7:16 PM, Sep. 20, 2019 An earlier version of this story said all charged Marines are assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. One of the Marines is attached to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. Both units are part of 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton.

Five Marines were charged with having direct involvement in the human smuggling conspiracy, said Maj. Kendra Motz, a 1st Marine Division spokeswoman.

All but one of the Marines are assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The other Marine, arrested by the Border Patrol on July 10, is assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. His arrest had not previously been reported.

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The next step in the military system will be preliminary Article 32 hearings, which function similar to civilian grand juries. No dates for those hearings were announced.

The investigation into the human smuggling ring started after two Marines were arrested after picking up at least three unauthorized immigrants near Jacumba Hot Springs on July 3, authorities said.

Lance Cpls. Byron Law and David Salazar-Quintero were initially charged in federal court, but their cases were turned over to the Marine Corps.

Then, on July 25, during unit formation, 16 Marines were detained in a mass arrest in front of their peers. Of those arrested that day, 10 have been charged.

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The Marines declined to release the names of the other service members allegedly involved until their first public hearings. Motz, the 1st Marine Division spokeswoman, said prosecutors have not yet decided whether the Marines will be tried separately or together.

None of the Marines charged were involved in the overall support mission at the U.S. southern border, the Marines said.

Dyer writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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