Three additional service members have been arrested in connection to an NCIS investigation into allegations of human smuggling and drug-related offenses.
An NCIS spokesperson said a Navy sailor was arrested Thursday in addition to two other Marines.
It brings the total number of arrests to 19, including 16 Marines arrested Thursday during a morning battalion formation at Camp Pendleton. The arrests were made in the presence of 800 Marines during that formation.
“Certainly that’s going to send a message. And if you put those individuals in the brig, you continue to make it clear to other junior Marines that this type of behavior is unacceptable,” said Marine officer and former JAG Robert Muth. Muth is currently a law professor at USD.
As of now, none of the 19 arrested service members have been charged.
In a statement, NCIS spokesperson Jeff Houston said no further information is available and updates will be provided when they become available.
“Out of respect for the investigative and judicial process, and to protect witnesses, NCIS will not comment further until the investigative and judicial process has completed,” the statement concluded.
The Marine Corps also did not provide any specific updates but released a two-part statement.
“The Marines who were detained [Thursday] have not been charged. We will provide updates once new information becomes available. Out of respect
for the privacy of the implicated Marines, we will not release names or other identifying information until charges are announced.”
The statement also added:
“The Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment will act within his authority to hold the Marines accountable at the appropriate level, should they be charged.”
The arrests of the 19 service members comes after the July 3 arrest of two Marines who have been charged with trying to smuggle migrants into the U.S. from Mexico. The pair has pleaded not guilty.
It’s not clear how those two Marines, if at all, implicated the other 19 service members.
“Once they were arrested, presumably their cell phones and other evidence would have been taken from them. And based on what might be on the cell phones, the government may have been able to further unravel the broader plot as to what was going on here,” said Muth.
Muth also said it’s possible we may not learn of any specific charges for at least a week.