Sixteen Marines at California's Camp Pendleton have been arrested following a human smuggling investigation, according to the Marine Corps.
The 16 Marines were arrested Thursday morning on allegations ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses, the 1st Marine Division said in a statement. The arrests were carried out by division officials and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service during battalion formation.
The arrests come only weeks after two Marines at the base were arrested near the border by a Border Patrol agent. The two Marines were accused of smuggling three Mexicans into the United States. The base is located north of San Diego about 55 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The Marine Corps said information gained from those arrests led to Thursday's arrests.
Eight additional Marines were reportedly questioned about unrelated drug offenses.
The two Marines arrested previously, Byron Darnell Law II and David Javier Salazar-Quintero, face federal charges of transporting unauthorized immigrants for financial gain, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.
They were reportedly pulled over by a Border Patrol agent July 3, driving a car near the border in Jacumba Hot Springs with three undocumented immigrants riding in the back seat. Citing a federal criminal complaint, Law allegedly said Salazar-Quintero had called him the previous night "and asked him if he was willing make $1,000 picking up an illegal alien," the paper reports. Salazar-Quintero allegedly said it was Law who introduced him to a recruiter who dispatched them to pick up people near the border, according to the paper.
As CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas reports, the undocumented immigrants said they had agreed to pay the Marines $8,000 to get them onto U.S. soil.
Yuccas reported that all the Marines placed under arrest on Thursday were being held in the brig at Camp Pendelton. They are all members of the oldest active-duty Marine division, headquartered at the military base just 60 miles north of the Mexican border. None of them were among the 6,600 active duty and National Guard troops who have been assigned to bolster Border Patrol forces along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"1st Marine Division is committed to justice and the rule of law, and we will continue to fully cooperate with NCIS on this matter," the Marine Corps statement said. "Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process."
Marines this year were brought in to help support the Department of Homeland Security in reinforcing the border by installing razor wire on top of existing barriers. Military troops are barred from making arrests of immigrants.