Two Marines have been accused of attempting to smuggle three migrants through California before being caught by a Border Patrol agent seven miles (11km) north of the Mexico border.
The Marines were stopped by the agent on Wednesday morning, according to court documents, with the three individuals with them admitting they were Mexican citizens in the United States illegally.
The migrants said they had been picked up from the side of the road in the US by the Marines, who have been identified as Lance Corporals Bryon Darnell Law II, and David Javier Salazar-Quintero.
The pair have been charged with “transportation of certain aliens for financial gain.” Both Marines are stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, around 65 miles north of the border.
According to court documents, two of the migrants planned on paying around $8,000 to get into the US, and that they planned on settling in Los Angeles and New Jersey.
The two Marines indicated that they had been offered at least $1,000 for giving the migrants a ride.
“Salazar stated he was originally introduced to smuggling by Byron Darnell Law II who introduced him to a man that recruited him,” according to the complaint, with Lance Cpl Law telling investigators: “Salazar called and asked him if he was willing to make $1,000 picking up an illegal alien,”.
Lance Cpl Law and Lance Cpl Salazar-Quintero have now been accused of picking up the migrants for profit, and admitted to investigators they had done similar work on previous occasions after being contacted by “recruiters”.
Their cases are just the latest examples of American active-duty troops who have been charged in recent years for helping migrants to cross the border in exchange for payment.
Those recent arrests, including the two Marines in California, all appear to follow the same pattern, and illustrate that smugglers are attempting to use law enforcement credentials to shield migrants entering the US.
A spokesman for the 1st Marine Division said that they are aware of the charges, and confirmed the rank of those involved. A request for comment sent to Border Patrol was returned with a copy of the court complaint.