During the summer of 2019, more than one dozen Marines from Camp Pendleton, California, were arrested for alleged connections to a human smuggling ring.

Now, federal prosecutors have brought conspiracy charges against the man who allegedly organized the smuggling and recruited the Marines.

California brought charges against Francisico Saul Rojas-Hernandez on one count of conspiracy to transport aliens within the United States for financial gain, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. NBC 7 San Diego first reported Rojas-Hernandez’s arrest.

According to court documents, federal agents first became aware of Rojas-Hernandez’s potential involvement in human smuggling after the arrest of two Marines, Lance Cpl. Byron Darnell Law II and Lance Cpl. David Javier Salazar-Quintero, by Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border July 3, 2019.

While being questioned, both Salazar-Quintero and Law told the agents Rojas-Hernandez recruited and organized their attempt at smuggling three unauthorized immigrants across San Diego county.

Salazar-Quintero was able to identify Rojas-Hernandez in a photo lineup.

In the months since the two Marines were arrested, Border Patrol stopped and arrested multiple civilians attempting to smuggle unauthorized immigrants across Southern California, who also identified Rojas-Hernandez as the one organizing the smuggling ring.

Ultimately Rojas-Hernandez was arrested by agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Border Patrol on January 21, an NCIS spokesman told Marine Corps Times Friday.

Though the spokesman confirmed the basic facts around the arrest, he did not provide more information about the case because proceedings are still ongoing.

In addition to the recent charges, the summer arrests of Salazar-Quintero and Law led to 13 Marines being charged with offenses related to the alleged human smuggling ring.

Those charges included nine Marines charged with conspiring or aiding in the smuggling of unauthorized immigrants, along with allegations of LSD distribution and the theft of smoke grenades.

Most of the Marines charged were from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, based in Camp Pendleton, California, and were arrested as part of a battalion formation that the Corps filmed on July 25.

Ultimately the mass arrest and comments allegedly made by the battalion commander calling the Marines arrested a “cancer” on the unit was ruled as a violation of the Marines’ rights under unlawful command influence.

The judges ruling led to the collapse of the case of most Marines, as the Corps dropped the courts-martial of all Marines arrested at the formation and instead moved to administratively separate the accused instead.

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