Updated: Aug 8, 2019
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 (NCIS) during a Battalion formation at Camp Pendleton in California.
"Information gained from a previous human smuggling investigation precipitated the arrests," the Marines said in a statement.
Eight additional Marines were taken in for questioning for their 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.