SAN DIEGO — The U.S. marshal's office announced the arrest Tuesday of the so-called kingpin of an alleged Marine porno production ring as Camp Pendleton officials confirmed the identification of an enlisted man who appeared in a brochure for the operation.
Federal marshals said they took into custody Luciano Ceballos, 42, alias Robert (Bobby) Vasquez, whom Oceanside police and Marine Corps investigators have identified as the leader of a mail-order video business that may have involved as many as 200 Marines.
Ceballos was arrested near his Oceanside apartment late Monday and transported to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego, where he is being held without bail for having violated his federal parole, said spokesman John Clark of the U.S. marshal's office.
Clark said that Ceballos' arrest was not a direct result of his involvement in the alleged pornography ring, except that he had told reporters for The Times, the North County Blade-Citizen and KFMB-TV, the CBS affiliate in San Diego, that he intended to flee.
"He said he intended to 'get the hell out of Dodge,' so we issued a warrant for his arrest," Clark said.
Ceballos was arrested in San Diego in 1985 for having forged U.S. Treasury checks and was sentenced to three years in federal prison, Clark said.
Another three years were added to the sentence for jumping bail, said Gary Gray, spokesman for the U.S. Parole Commission in Dallas. Ceballos was initially paroled in 1988 but was ordered to serve 12 more months and was re-paroled in 1991, Gray said.
Gray described Ceballos as a legal immigrant from Mexico who will have a hearing before the Parole Commission to decide, in Clark's words, whether "to reinstate him on parole or send him back to finish part or all of his remaining sentence."
Meanwhile, at Camp Pendleton, Marine officials announced that a junior enlisted man has been identified as having appeared in a brochure advertising pornographic videos for sale.
"That individual is not accused of any wrongdoing at this time," read a three-page release that did not name the Marine in question. Camp Pendleton officials said they continue to work closely with police and the San Diego County district attorney's office.
Police said last week that the ring involved between two dozen and 200 Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, where members of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service took possession of a photo album and a brochure from Oceanside detectives.
Oceanside Police Sgt. John Lamb said the head of the ring--identified by investigators as "Bobby"--was operating a mail-order video business without a license, which, in Lamb's view, would have violated his federal parole.
Lamb said the pornographic materials were being shipped through a private carrier, the United Parcel Service, which he said was not illegal. Federal regulations forbid the transport of obscene material through the U.S. Postal Service.
Although few civilian laws restrict homosexual or heterosexual pornography, the Uniform Code of Military Justice forbids personnel from engaging in sodomy, prostitution, pandering or distributing obscene material in the mail.
Pendleton officials said Tuesday that they had examined a brochure "with a military theme that contained 25 facial photographs of men on simulated military identification cards" and that the men were identified by first names only.
The brochure also contained about two-dozen photographs of men "nude or in various stages of undress," Marine officials said, noting that one depicted a man "performing a homosexual act on another man."
The officials acknowledged the brochure indicated the men as being Marines from Camp Pendleton, but "this claim has not been substantiated," the press release said. Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials said they also reviewed a photo album containing more than 300 snapshots.
"Many of the photographs were of . . . individual men in the nude," the release said, noting that some of the pictures appear to be more than 10 years old. "A large number of the pictures did not reveal faces. None of the men in the photo album have been identified."
In an interview with The Times on Sunday, Ceballos said he had destroyed several boxes of videotapes and photographs that--he claimed--could implicate as many as 500 active-duty Marines as being involved in the porno ring.
Ceballos said he mailed "the most precious" material to a friend in New York, including a complete list of phone numbers--those of active-duty Marines whom he had videotaped himself or referred to other agencies that he claimed pay upward of $250 for 20 to 90 minutes of taping.
He said the photo album and brochure were turned over to Oceanside police by the jealous wife of a Camp Pendleton Marine after she learned of her husband's involvement with Ceballos and reported him to authorities.
Pendleton officials said Tuesday that, although their investigation is continuing, they have found "little substantiated evidence of wrongdoing by Marines" and have not uncovered "tangible evidence, as yet, of a felony-level offense."