Thousands of American troops have been deployed to the nation’s southern border in efforts to curb to influx of illegal immigrants streaming through from Mexico. However, earlier this summer, two Marines were arrested for assisting three illegals in crossing into California – and it appears it was far from an isolated incident.
As the investigation developed and lead to even more arrests, several Marines are now saying their rights were violated along the way.
On July 3 of this year, Lance Corporals Byron Darnell Law II and Davis Javier Salazar-Quintero headed south from Camp Pendleton where they were stationed. In a black BMW, the Marines pulled into a parking lot about a mile from the Mexican-American border.
Border patrol agents witnessed three migrants run out of nearby brush and jump into the backseat of the car. From there, the two Marines allegedly proceeded to drive the illegal immigrants further into California to flee from the heavily patrolled border area.
However, the Marines only made it a few minutes with their stowaways before being pulled over by Border Patrol agents, the New York Times’ Dave Phillips reports.
According to Phillips, it was Lance Corporal Salazar-Quintero who approached Lance Corporal Law about picking up the migrants offering $1,000 in compensation.
With an existing pay rate of approximately $2,000 per month through the Marine Corp, Law agreed, according to Phillips.
Alex Mensing of the Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a group that assists migrant caravans, was not at all surprised that United States Marines would engage in illegally smuggling. He said to the New York Times:
“At the end of the day, everybody has their price. And when you put people in charge of a system that enough people are trying to game, it’s just bound to happen.”
As the month of July progressed, the investigation expanded in a stunning reveal that many more Marines at Camp Pendleton may have been involved in illegal human trafficking.
At the time of the initial developments in the case, the Marine Corps released a statement assuring that the commanding officer in charge “would act within his authority to hold the Marines accountable at the appropriate level, should they be charged.”
On the morning of July 25, more than 800 Marines assembled in formation at the Camp San Mateo section of the Camp Pendleton base. The commanding officers called 24 names and 15 of those Marines were ordered to stand in front of the battalion.
The battalion major was also in attendance holding a red folder which was generally reserved for presenting commendations. However, instead the sergeant major announced “NCIS, arrest these men.”
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Andrew Dyer, approximately 40 military law enforcement and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents descended on the 15 assembled men, handcuffing them in the presence of the hundreds assembled Marines. The Marines were escorted from the formation one-by-one. After the public display, Lt. Col. Eric M. Olson announced to their peer Marines:
“What you just saw … these Marines are a distraction to leadership and readiness.”
Spokesman Lt. Cameron Edinburgh, representing the 1st Marine Division, stated to The Orange County Register that the arrests were an “eye-opening thing for the battalion … . It had a shock and awe factor. The command wanted to send a message to make clear this type of behavior is not tolerated.”
However, according to Attorney Payton-O’Brien, who is representing an unidentified Marine says that the display and commentary made were unacceptable, according to Dyer. She says:
“The government’s actions in this battalion formation arrest and their post-arrest comments to the battalion are wholly unacceptable and inappropriate.”
She says the comments made violate the Uniform Code of Justice.
Jeremiah Sullivan, an attorney representing another unidentified Marine agrees.
The attorneys feel that the public display, which was widely viewed on social media and in the news, has tainted the potential jury pool and that it would now be impossible for their clients to have a fair trial.
If the attorneys are correct that use of authority could influence the outcome of the trial, the entire case could upended. Sullivan says:
“It is puzzling, but not surprising, why NCIS would coordinate such a circus. The message they are sending is unlawful command influence. This was completely unnecessary and all for show.”
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In the meantime, we also reported this week about how the FBI launched a massive sting and found a group of officers getting paid to protect cartel drug trafficking.
You’ve got to hand it to the FBI when it comes to crafting amazing sting operations.
Throughout the years, those kinds of operations have managed to get a myriad of criminals off the streets; but this time, the guilty parties identified by one of their recent stings may have you surprised.
A trio of South Carolina law enforcement officers got caught with their hand in the cartel-cookie jar, with two of the guilty individuals facing up to twenty years in prison.
Three former Orangeburg, South Carolina law enforcement officers, who were fooled by the FBI into thinking they were taking money from a fake drug-running Mexican cartel, have pleaded guilty to various criminal charges connected to the sting.
Evidence that was gathered by the FBI in putting together the case involved wiretaps, covert videos and an undercover agent posing as a member of a fake Mexican drug-trafficking cartel. According to assistant U.S. Attorney Will Lewis, who had described the crimes to Judge Joe Anderson on Tuesday, stated:
“They were engaged in a conspiracy to protect what they believed were drug traffickers.”
In the FBI’s sting, an agent posing as a member of a purported Mexican cartel who called himself “Jamie” told the officers that the cartel’s trucks would be traveling south through Orangeburg County on Interstate 26 with loads of money from selling drugs and then back again traveling north with loads of drugs, according to evidence in the case.
Per the discussed scheme with the undercover agents, the Orangeburg officers agreed to be paid to “guard” the fake truckloads of cash and drugs during the trucks’ layovers near an interstate exit.
Officers stood watch to keep the fake cartel trucks from harm, according to evidence in the case. This act of “guarding” would be executed while the Orangeburg officers were in full uniform while in their police vehicles.
The three who pleaded guilty this past Tuesday had varying charges associated with their level of participation in the collusion.
One of the guilty, Allan Hunter, 51, was a police officer in the town of Springfield in western Orangeburg County. He pleaded guilty to numerous charges connected with taking bribes to protect the fake cartel’s drug-trafficking operations. Hunter also plead guilty to using his position as a law officer to help undocumented immigrants illegally stay in the United States.
Based upon the charges that he accepted, he cold be facing up to 20 years in prison when it’s all said and done.
The second of the trio in the case is Nathaniel Shazier, 29, who was an Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy. He plead guilty to conspiracy to guard the fake cartel’s trucks during the undercover sting. Shazier is also looking at a 20-year sentence for his role within the conspiracy.
Lastly, Stanley Timmons, 44, was also Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy like Shazier. He plead guilty to a lesser charge than his two codefendants as only being part of a conspiracy to guard the fake cartel’s trucks. With the lesser charge that was plead to, Timmons could face only 5 years in prison for his role.
The sting also managed to culminate in the arrest of an additional four officers, but their cases are only pending at this point.
What was interesting to find was that the FBI’s sting operation initially began as an investigation into a fraudulent visa-selling scheme that was being run out of the Orangeburg County sheriff’s department.
Under a special program, immigrants without permission to stay in the United States who are victims of crimes, or who are willing to help law enforcement, can apply for special visas, called U-Visas. Once granted, these special visas allow an immigrant to stay in the United States for four years.
It was believed that deputies within the Orangeburg County sheriff’s department were creating counterfeit incident reports alleging that certain foreigners were victims of crimes. Hunter was involved in the original endeavor to fabricate the fake incident reports, and at some point, he began recruiting other officers to guard the fake cartel trucks, according to an indictment in the case.
Considering that the three officers plead guilty in this case already, it tells of the amount of evidence that the FBI had to have collected in order to secure those pleas. Considering that there’s additional cases pending for other officers involved in this sting, those cases might have similar conclusions to those of the three officers already guilty.
Here’s the full list of names and charges:
Springfield Police Department Chief Lacra Sharod Jenkins: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;
Springfield Police Department Officer Allan Hunter, Jr.: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;
Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Carolyn Colter Franklin: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;
Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Nathaniel Miller Shazier, III: Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime
Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Stanley Lavalle Timmons: Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;
Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Deputy James Albert Tucker: Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime;
Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Willie Paul David Rogers: Conspiracy and Visa Fraud;
Saurabhkumar B. Patel, of Orangeburg, South Carolina: Conspiracy; and
Tarang Patel, of Newport, Kentucky: Conspiracy and Visa Fraud.
“With this Indictment, we honor the hard work and dedication of the very fine officers across South Carolina who put on the police uniform every day and risk their lives to protect the rest of us,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.
Lyndon said it’s crucial to get rid of the bad apples.
“If these allegations are proved, these defendants do not deserve to wear the badge and should not be allowed to bring disrepute on the overwhelming majority of men and women in blue who serve South Carolina with integrity. We will not tolerate the hypocrisy of those who would pretend to enforce the law, while violating it themselves as they seek to line their own pockets. We call that public corruption, and we will always call it out.”