Eighteen United States Marines and one Navy sailor were dramatically taken into custody on Thursday at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, California. All 19 members of the 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment were implicated, following the recent arrests of two Marines — who had been charged with transporting illegal aliens.
Aspects of the mass arrest have many remembering that the same kind of thing happened nearly a decade ago. In October of 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that active members of at least 53 different gangs had enlisted “in every branch of the armed forces.”
According to the 2011 FBI analysis, “Members of every major street gang, some prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) have been reported on both U.S. and international military installations.” Now, it looks like it’s happening again.
Thursday’s arrests were obviously meant to send a loud and clear message to all the other Marines, and probably has a lot to do with the newly appointed four-star general at the top. David H. Berger assumed command of the Marine Corps just two weeks ago, and he intends to hold Marines to their better than the rest reputation.
“I believe in my soul Marines are different. We are not like everybody else. And the Marine Corps is not like every other organization.”
A Facebook post went viral, alleging that the unit commander, “Sgt. Maj. Matthew Dorsey, essentially faked an awards ceremony before having the Marines nabbed by NCIS.”
A spokeswoman for the 1st Marine Division clarified that it wasn’t that sinister. “It didn’t happen that way at all,” Kendra Motz explains.
The 1,200 man battalion was called into parade formation. As the Sgt. Major called names off a clipboard, those summoned broke ranks and ran to the front.
“They lined up in front of the formation. Then once everyone was lined up, they were arrested.” Two Marines and one sailor were not present at formation, but were snagged later.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service isn’t providing much detail, other than the men were arrested for “alleged involvement in various illegal activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses.”
“NCIS is dedicated to investigating allegations of criminal activity that poses threats to Department of the Navy readiness and the safety of U.S. citizens,” said NCIS spokesman Patrick Barnes.
When asked if “investigators are looking into any possible links to organized crime or drug cartels,” Motz confirmed that they were. “That’s also part of the investigation. Those questions are being asked in the proper channels. If it’s found that a Marine does not meet the high standards that we set for them, then they’ll be held accountable.”
That criminal activity seems clearly related to another incident that made headlines at the beginning of July.
On July 3, Byron Law II and David Javier Salazar-Quintero were stopped 7 miles from the border with three Mexicans in the back seat. Both have been federally charged with transporting unauthorized immigrants for financial gain. U.S. Border Patrol agents had been tipped off “that a vehicle similar to theirs was suspected of picking up migrants who came into the country illegally,” the federal complaint notes.
Both men are pointing the finger at the other as the instigator.
Law claims “that Salazar asked if he was interested in earning $1,000 picking up an illegal alien.” Meanwhile Salazar maintains, “Law introduced him to a man who recruited him to help smuggle in migrants.”
The pair made a run for the border on the night of July 2, following instructions from a “burner” phone. They picked up an illegal and took him to a McDonald’s in Del Mar, but didn’t get paid for it, they claim. They were supposed to get paid for the three they picked up the next night. It seems the Marines were running a regular illegal immigration shuttle service.
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The three illegals all admit they each paid $8,000 “to be smuggled into the United States.”
Although some members of the U.S. military have been assigned to assist with border enforcement operations, “none of the Marines arrested or detained for questioning served in support of the Southwest Border Support mission.”