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Two dozen US Marines arrested & questioned in human smuggling, drugs probe at California border base

Two dozen US Marines arrested & questioned in human smuggling, drugs probe at California border base
Sixteen US Marines have been arrested on charges including human smuggling at a California base near the Mexican border, while eight more have been questioned regarding drug crimes, military authorities have revealed.

The Marines were arrested on suspicion of “various illegal activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses” at Camp Pendleton, the Marines’ largest West Coast base located just 55 miles from the border with Mexico, on Thursday. Eight others were questioned concerning their involvement in “alleged drug offenses related to today’s arrests,” according to a Marine press release. All were members of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.

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Thousands of US troops have been sent to the Mexican border in recent months to provide “logistical and surveillance support” to Border Patrol, though they are not permitted to apprehend illegal border-crossers themselves. However, none of those arrested are involved with the ongoing military “border support” operations, the Corps took pains to clarify, promising to “fully cooperate” with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the military police agency.

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The arrests stemmed from information “gained from a previous human smuggling investigation,” believed to be the arrest earlier this month of two more Marines on human smuggling charges. The pair, members of the same unit as those arrested in the latest roundup, were pulled over with three men who claimed to be undocumented Mexicans planning to pay $8,000 to be smuggled into the US. They reportedly confessed they had “done this work before,” and have been charged with “transportation of certain aliens for financial gain.”

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