WASHINGTON — Sixteen Marines were arrested on Thursday at a military base in Southern California and charged with an array of offenses, including human smuggling and drug violations, the Marine Corps said in a statement.
At about 7:30 a.m., at the regular morning formation of the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, the 16 Marines were summoned to the front of the 800-member ranks at Camp Pendleton and placed under arrest by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, according to Lt. Cameron Edinburgh, a spokesman for the First Marine Division at the base.
The Marines are suspected of smuggling undocumented immigrants into the United States, but Lieutenant Edinburgh said he did not have any information on the scope, duration or other details of the alleged operations.
The service members who were detained were all junior enlisted Marines — privates first class, lance corporals and corporals, the lieutenant said.
Additionally, eight more Marines were pulled aside for questioning about their involvement in alleged drug offenses unrelated to the arrests on Thursday, Lieutenant Edinburgh said.
A statement from the First Marine Division said none of the Marines who were arrested or detained for questioning were serving in support of support missions along the southwestern border. Camp Pendleton, one of the largest military bases in the United States, is about 70 miles north of the border with Mexico.
Thursday’s actions stemmed largely from the arrest of two other Marines by Border Patrol agents in the last three weeks, Lieutenant Edinburgh said. Information from that human smuggling investigation led to the charges against the Marines on Thursday, he said.