Sixteen U.S. Marines were arrested on Thursday morning for their alleged involvement in activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses, the Marine Corps said.
The arrests were carried out by officials from 1st Marine Division and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service during an 800-person battalion formation at Camp Pendleton in California.
“Information gained from a previous human smuggling investigation precipitated the arrests,” the Marines said in a statement.
A spokesperson for 1st Marine Division confirmed to ABC News that a case of two Marines charged with human smuggling earlier this month “identified the allegations” against the individuals involved in Thursday’s arrests.
The 16 Marines were part of 1st Battalion 5th Marines, an infantry battalion that was preparing for deployment overseas, the spokesperson said. The Marines arrested were all low-ranking enlisted males, ranging between private first class and corporal.
Eight additional Marines were taken in for questioning on their possible involvement in alleged drug offenses, unrelated to Thursday’s arrests.
“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 statement said. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process.”
The Marines said that none of the 16 Marines who were arrested were part of the Defense Department’s deployment of troops to the southern border.
Earlier this month, two Marines were charged after allegedly trying to smuggle undocumented immigrants for “financial gain,” according to court documents from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Byron Darnell Law II and David Javier Salazar-Quintero were arrested on July 3 after Border Patrol agents intercepted them transporting three Mexican citizens without immigration documents in their vehicle approximately seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border and 20 miles east of the Tecate, California, port of entry. Two of the immigrants later told agents they were going to pay $8,000 to be smuggled into the U.S. with destinations of Los Angeles and New Jersey, officials said.
Law and Salazar-Quintero are among several active-duty service members who have been charged in recent years in connection with helping immigrants cross the border in exchange for financial benefit, according to the Washington Post.