San Diego

A Dozen Marines Remain in Confinement in NCIS Smuggling Investigation

Charges are pending against the detained Marines

A dozen Marines remain in confinement at Camp Pendleton in connection with a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation into allegations of human smuggling and drug-related offenses.

The Marines with the 1st Marine Division were among 19 service members, including a Navy corpsman, detained in July through the expanding investigation into illegal smuggling activity.

At least seven service members and the sailor have been released to their command, though it was not immediately clear if it meant they were cleared from the investigation. 

A spokesperson for the 1st Marine Division said charges are pending against the detained Marines but emphasized that all personnel involved are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The spokesperson also confirmed to NBC 7 two Marines who were previously being prosecuted in federal court after their arrest on July 3 will have their case moved to military court. No Article 32 hearing has yet been held.

Lance Corporals Byron Law II and David Salazar-Quintero were arrested when U.S. Border Patrol agents reportedly spotted three undocumented immigrants jump into their car on Interstate 8, NBC 7 Investigates first reported after obtaining a federal complaint detailing the alleged activity. 

The complaint said 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.

The two Marines told investigators it wasn't the first time they had transported undocumented immigrants for cash, according to the complaint

It was not clear how those two Marines, if at all, implicate the service members arrested weeks later.

On July 25, 16 Marines, all E-2 to E-4 in rank, were arrested during battalion formation comprised of about 800 Marines at Camp Pendleton. The following day, investigators confirmed a Navy sailor and two other Marines were also arrested

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.

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