U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested a pair of Camp Pendleton Marines last week near the border in eastern San Diego County for allegedly transporting unauthorized immigrants as part of a smuggling operation, according to a federal criminal complaint.
The Marines, Byron Darnell Law II and David Javier Salazar-Quintero, were scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning in U.S. District Court on one felony count each of transporting unauthorized immigrants for financial gain.
It was unclear Monday night if they were arraigned as scheduled. Attorneys for both men did not immediately return requests seeking comment late Monday.
According to the criminal complaint, Law and Salazar-Quintero were arrested Wednesday, July 3, shortly after pulling the vehicle they were in off Interstate 8 near Jacumba Hot Springs and picking up three unauthorized immigrants. The pair also allegedly admitted to driving at least one unauthorized immigrant — and possibly as many as three — from the border area to either Del Mar or Solana Beach the previous night.
Both men blamed each other for getting him involved in the scheme, according to the criminal complaint, and both also spoke of an unidentified third man, a recruiter, who directed their actions.
f said he’d done the same thing on four separate occasions, according to the complaint. Law allegedly told Border Patrol agents he was an active-duty Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton.
In a statement to NBC7, which first reported the charges, a Camp Pendleton spokesperson identified both Law and Salazar-Quintero as lance corporals attached to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. The spokesperson told NBC7 the command will “continue to cooperate fully with the investigative efforts into this matter.”
According to the complaint, Agent Paul Clouthier said that around 10 a.m. on July 3, agents from the Boulevard Border Patrol Station were investigating footprints left by suspected border-crossers when an agent noticed a small black sedan pull off Interstate 8 onto a dirt turnaround.
The agents did not see exactly what happened next, but they believed the car was likely involved in smuggling, and found fresh footprints on the ground near where the car had momentarily stopped, according to the complaint. Agents later stopped the same car and found Law driving, Salazar-Quintero in the passenger seat and three people in the back.
The three backseat passengers told Border Patrol agents they were in the country without documents, prompting agents to arrest all five of the car’s occupants, according to the complaint.
Both Marines allegedly spoke to federal agents after waiving their rights to an attorney. Law said it was Salazar-Quintero who called him the night of July 2 and “and asked him if he was willing make $1,000 picking up an illegal alien,” the criminal complaint said.
Law said they picked up one person July 2 and drove that person to Del Mar, according to the complaint. Salazar-Quintero told agents that he and Law had picked up three people on July 2 and took them to Solana Beach.
Salazar-Quintero also told agents it was Law who first introduced him to smuggling and to the recruiter who dispatched them to pick up people near the border. Law said it was Salazar-Quintero who called him July 2 and again July 3, the morning they were arrested.
According to Border Patrol agents, the three unauthorized immigrants found in Law’s backseat — two men and one woman — “all admitted to making smuggling arrangements.”
The trio allegedly told agents they were directed by phone to the side of I-8 and then told to get into a black car. According to the complaint, all three picked Law out of a photo lineup and identified him as the black car’s driver.
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