Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.
The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.
News of the charges is the latest development in a story that began back on July 3, when two Marine infantrymen, Lance Cpl. Byron Law and Lance Cpl. David Javier Salazar-Quintero, were pulled over and arrested by Border Patrol — along with three undocumented immigrants in the backseat — as they were allegedly trying to make a quick buck shuttling people from Mexico into the United States, according to a federal court complaint first reported by Quartz.
After NCIS had examined both Marines' phones, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine regiment held a mass formation later that month where 16 Marines were called out and arrested as being potentially part of a larger ring. On Friday, the division press release said that both Law and Salazar-Quintero had been hit with smuggling charges, in addition to 11 others.
Five lance corporals were charged with smuggling; three lance corporals were charged with perjury; one lance corporal was charged with distributing LSD and cocaine; and one lance corporal was charged with failure to obey an order, larceny, and smuggling. All are assigned to 1/5.
One other lance corporal assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment was charged with failure to obey an order, endangerment offenses, and smuggling. That Marine, according to the press release, was detained by U.S. Border Patrol on July 10. According to the charge sheet, the charges of failing to obey and endangerment stem from his allegedly keeping a 9mm handgun in his barracks room, car, and unlawfully concealed carrying it when he was arrested.
"None of the Marines arrested or detained for questioning served in support of the Southwest Border Support mission," Motz said.