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Dozens of US Marines Dismissed for Involvement in Human Smuggling Operation

© AP Photo / Charlie Riedel In this March 2, 2019 file photo, a razor-wire-covered border wall separates the United States, at left, from Mexico east of Nogales, Ariz
 In this March 2, 2019 file photo, a razor-wire-covered border wall separates the United States, at left, from Mexico east of Nogales, Ariz - Sputnik International
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Twenty-four members of the US Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Division, based in California, have been dismissed after facing judicial or administrative action for their connection to a scheme involving moving undocumented immigrants across the US-Mexico border.

Maj. Kendra Motz, a spokesperson for the unit, told Military.com that one of the Marines will face 18 months behind bars. Nine cases have been sent to the courts-martial, where eight Marines pleaded guilty and were subsequently dismissed from the service on less-than-honorable conditions. The ninth Marine’s case will go before a general court-martial, the highest level of military trial. The remaining Marines faced administrative punishment and were also dismissed on less-than-honorable conditions.

"All cases were handled at the appropriate level and with respect to the rule of law," Motz told Military.com.

The arrests began in July 2019. The scheme’s ringleader, Francisco Saul Rojas-Hernandez - who is not a member of the US Marine Corps - was arrested on January 22 in Solana Beach in California. 

Rojas-Hernandez has been charged with felony conspiracy to transport aliens for financial gain after at least two Marines based at Camp Pendleton in California told US Customs and Border Patrol agents that they had been recruited by him.

According to court documents, Rojas-Hernandez recruited the Marines and paid them to move undocumented immigrants through San Diego after they crossed the US-Mexico border. 

In her statement to Military.com, Motz confirmed that the Marine Corps has a duty “to be the most ready when the nation is least ready."

"And we will continue to enforce the standards of honor, courage and commitment that serve as the great hallmarks of our Corps," she added.

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