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Camp Pendleton Marine accused of human smuggling after Christmas Day arrest

Border Patrol chase leads to Lake Morena crash
Posted at 11:28 AM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 20:25:39-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – A Camp Pendleton-based Marine faces federal human smuggling charges after being arrested on Christmas Day in San Diego’s East County.

A federal complaint filing obtained by ABC 10News shows Cpl. Angel Morales Gaitan was taken into custody following a Border Patrol traffic stop on the afternoon of Dec. 25.

At around 1 p.m. on that day, a Border Patrol agent spotted a Kia Optima driving “suspiciously” near Old Highway 80 in the Campo area and initiated a traffic stop.

The agent noted that the driver, later identified as Morales, displayed “driving behaviors consistent with someone who is unfamiliar with the area.”

During the traffic stop, an agent saw two people “attempting to conceal themselves in the rear seats of the vehicle.”

The pair -- a man and woman -- were determined to be “citizens of Mexico present in the United States without proper immigration documentation allowing them to enter or remain in the United States legally.”

Morales and the two suspected undocumented immigrants were taken into Border Patrol custody at the conclusion of the vehicle inspection.

According to the complaint, Morales acknowledged he was a U.S. Marine during questioning, and he told authorities he responded to an Instagram ad that offered $1,000 per trip to drivers.

Morales said he was supposed to take the man and woman to Los Angeles, the complaint stated.

Authorities said the man and woman were being held as material witnesses.

In a statement, Camp Pendleton officials said: “We are aware of the December 25th incident involving the detention of a member of 1st Marine Division by California Border Patrol. 1st Marine Division is committed to justice and the rule of law, and is supporting the California Border Patrol who has the lead in this case.”

Morales has been a Marine for four years.