WASHINGTON — Sixteen Marines at Camp Pendleton in California were arrested during a morning battalion formation and charged with human smuggling and drug offenses, the Marine Corps said Thursday.
Pentagon officials indicated in interviews with TMN that a deeper probe on the scheme is likely.
“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 Thursday. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process.”
NCIS refers to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The Marines Corps is part of the Department of the Navy.
The 16 arrests follow those of two Marines from the base who were arrested near the border by a Border Patrol agent in early July. Those first arrests opened the path to the newest snares, officials said.
The base is located north of San Diego about 55 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. A new commander, Brig. Gen. Daniel Conley, took charge on July 19.
Marines are part of the active military deployment at the U.S.-Mexico border. They primarily have been installing razor wire on top of the existing barrier as part of their border duty.
“None of the Marines arrested or detained for questioning served in support of the Southwest Border Support mission,” the Marine Corps statement said.
Eight other Marines were questioned on their role in alleged drug offenses unrelated to the other arrests, the Marine Corps said.
According to reports, undocumented immigrants said they had agreed to pay the Marines between $1,000 and $8,000 to get them into the United States.
Those arrested had ranks from between private first class to corporal, the Marines said. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process,” the Marine Corps statement said.