Marine Gets a Year's Confinement, Busted Down to E-1 in Smuggling Case

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A screen grab from a YouTube video shows Marines being arrested during formation at Camp Pendleton in July, 2019. (Screen capture)
A screen grab from a YouTube video shows Marines being arrested during formation at Camp Pendleton in July, 2019. (Screen capture)

Another Marine was hit with jail time and a bad-conduct discharge in connection with a slew of arrests made last summer over suspicions that members of a California-based infantry battalion were transporting people who'd crossed into the U.S. illegally.

A lance corporal with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was sentenced to 12 months' confinement and had his rank reduced to private at a Feb. 14 court-martial. The infantry rifleman, whose identity was not released, pleaded guilty to transporting and conspiring to transport people who had illegally entered the country, said Maj. Kendra Motz, a 1st Marine Division spokeswoman.

The Marine had served seven of the 12 months leading up to the court-martial, Motz said, leaving five months remaining.

"This was the maximum sentence that could be adjudged under the plea agreement," she added.

The Marine was one of nine sent to court-martial after a slew of arrests made during a July battalion formation at Camp Pendleton. Those sent to trial were the most serious of two dozen cases involving human-smuggling or drug-related offenses.

Related: 24 California Marines Kicked Out Over Smuggling and Drug Charges

All the Marines who faced courts-martial pleaded guilty, Motz told Military.com earlier this month.

Fifteen other Marines charged with lesser offenses faced administrative punishments and were booted out of the military under less-than-honorable conditions.

The highly public formation arrests followed two Marines, Lance Cpls. Byron Darnell Law II and David Javier Salazar-Quintero, getting picked up by federal agents near the U.S.-Mexico border earlier that month.

Border agents said Law and Salazar-Quintero were transporting three unauthorized immigrants when they were stopped, court documents state. The Marines, who were assigned to 1/5, said they'd been recruited by Francisco Saul Rojas-Hernandez, who offered to pay them to drive people who'd crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.

Rojas-Hernandez was charged last month with conspiracy to transport people who'd crossed into the country for financial gain, according to court records.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Man Charged After Marines Allege He Recruited Them for Smuggling Operations

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