Sixteen Marines were arrested early Thursday morning for "alleged involvement in various illegal activities," including human smuggling and drug-related offenses, according to a U.S. Marine Corps. (USMC) statement.
"Information gained from a previous human smuggling investigation precipitated the arrests,” the release said, adding that the arrests transpired at Camp Pendleton, Calif., during a battalion formation.
“None of the Marines arrested or detained for questioning served in support of the Southwest Border Support mission,” the release states.
The release added that eight other Marines “were taken aside to be questioned on their involvement in alleged drug offenses unrelated to today’s arrests.”
Task and Purpose reported that the arrests are linked to the earlier bust of two Marine infantrymen, Lance Cpl. Byron Law and Lance Cpl. David Javier Salazar-Quintero, who on July 3 were arrested along with three undocumented immigrants with whom they were driving. Border Patrol had pulled the two over as they were allegedly attempting to earn cash by driving people from Mexico into the United States, according to a federal court complaint first reported by Quartz.
The Thursday morning arrest of the 16 Marines came after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found information on Law and Salazar-Quintero’s phones, a source familiar with the matter told Task & Purpose.
The 16 Marines also came from the same unit that Law and Salazar-Quintero were assigned to, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, a 1st Marine Division spokeswoman told the news outlet.
"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 added. "Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process."
—Updated at 2:51 p.m.