Around 11:30 at night on February 8, a San Diego Air & Marine Branch (SDAMB) BE-350 Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft detected a possible lights out vessel by radar off the Southern California Coast headed north towards the maritime boundary line between Mexico and the United States. At around 11:45, the vessel crossed the boundary line and continued its northbound course. The MEA provided the vessels location course and a Coastal Interceptor Vessel (CIV) from the SDAMB to make the interdiction. By around 1:00 in the morning, the CIV stopped a 20ft Inflatable (Zodiac style) vessel with a single outboard motor with 11 passengers on board approximately 7 NM west of North Torrey Pines Nature Preserve. The vessel was seized by SDAMB and persons were turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.
“This smuggling event is an example of the extreme risks smugglers take to bring people illegally into the United States,” said Acting Deputy Director, Marine Operations Kris Goland. “It’s fortunate that this event came to a safe ending considering the smuggling vessel was way overloaded with people, at night, without navigation lights, in an inflatable boat, way offshore of San Diego”.
Border Patrol agents took custody of the passengers and determined them to be aliens illegally in the United States. The aliens illegally in the U.S. were taken to a local border patrol station for further processing. The group consisted of seven adult Mexican males, two adult Mexican females, one Mexican unaccompanied alien child and one adult Brazilian male. The captain of the vessel has been identified and prosecution is being sought for alien smuggling.
“Maritime smuggling is extremely dangerous and smugglers place an emphasis on monetary gain over victim safety,” stated USBP’s San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “I am proud of the hard work and diligence the agents displayed in this case.”
If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the Santa Barbara coastline or other northern counties of California, please call the Maritime Coordination Center (MCC) at 1-562-283-7820, or notify local law enforcement by dialing 9-1-1.