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Final Marine arrested in alleged human smuggling ring receives punishment

One Marine linked to a suspected human smuggling ring on Feb. 14 was sentenced to 12 months confinement and reduction to E-1, the Marine Corps confirmed Friday.

David J. Salazar-Quintero was lance corporal when he was arrested along with Lance Cpl. Byron Darnell Law II by Border Patrol Agents July 3, 2019, near the U.S.-Mexico border with three undocumented immigrants in the back of their vehicle.

Salazar-Quintero pleaded guilty to transporting illegal aliens and conspiring to transport illegal aliens, Maj. Kendra Motz, a 1st Marine Division spokeswoman, told Marine Corps Times in an email Friday.

The sentence of one year in confinement and reduction to E-1 was the maximum sentence possible under the plea agreement, Motz said.

The Marine has spent about seven months in confinement and only has five months left of his 12 month sentence, Military.com first reported.

The Marine is the last of 24 Marines charged with either human smuggling or drug-related offenses to receive his sentence, Motz said.

Most of the Marines arrested hailed from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, based out of Camp Pendleton, California, and were detained at a mass formation arrest filmed by the Corps on July 25, 2019.

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

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

First Lt. Cameron Edinburgh told Marine Corps Times that 15 Marines were administratively separated from the Corps while nine were referred to courts-martial.

Ultimately all nine Marines, including Salazar-Quintero, have been dismissed from the Marine Corps with less than honorable discharges, Edinburgh said. One of the Marines is currently serving a sentence of 18 months in the brig, he said.

In addition to the Marines charged in connection to the human smuggling ring, federal charges have been brought against Francisico Saul Rojas-Hernandez, a civilian alleged to have paid and organized the Marines involved with the smuggling.

Rojas-Hernandez was arrested for allegedly paying civilians to aid in the transportation scheme as well, and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

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