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CBP Air and Marine Agents Interrupt at Sea Drug Transfer

Release Date: 
December 9, 2015

SAN DIEGO — Air and Marine agents with Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations, seized two vessels, almost a ton of marijuana, and arrested four suspects last Wednesday when they interrupted an at sea drug transfer near San Clemente Island. 

One of two pleasure crafts that were seized by Air and Marine agents.

One of two pleasure crafts that were seized by Air and Marine agents.

On Dec. 2, at about 6 p.m., Air and Marine agents on patrol in a Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft, spotted a northbound pleasure craft in Mexican waters running with no lights.  Agents monitored the vessel until it crossed the international border and then guided other agents, operating a Midnight Express pursuit boat, to its location.

Agents covertly followed the suspect vessel when at about 18 miles east of San Clemente Island, at approximately 10:45 p.m., they located a second pleasure craft also not operating their running lights.  Agents observed the crews of these vessels meet.  The crews soon after began passing cargo from the first vessel to the second.  Air and Marine agents stealthily closed-in on the vessels to conduct a boarding inspection.

Agents discovered a large amount of packages on the two vessels that appeared to contain marijuana.  Two Mexican nationals and two U.S. citizens were taken into custody on suspicion of drug smuggling.

Agents removed 149 bundles from the two vessels.  The bundles weighed 1,788 pounds and tested positive for marijuana.  The marijuana has an estimated street value of $1,072,000.

Almost a ton of marijuana was seized by Air and Marine agents in San Diego.

Almost a ton of marijuana was seized by Air and Marine agents in San Diego.

Jeremy Thompson, Director of Marine Operations for CBP in San Diego, stated, "As we become more effective, we have seen smugglers need to change their tactics of longer routes that take them further out to sea and further up the coastline in their attempts to avoid us.  We remain committed to detecting and disrupting these smuggling attempts no matter when or where they occur."

The four suspects and marijuana were turned over to agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations who are assigned to the San Diego Marine Task Force, who are investigating the incident.  The vessels were seized by agents with Air and Marine Operations.

If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, please contact Joint Harbor Operations Center (JHOC) at 1-800-854-9834 or 911.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection in collaboration with other federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies coordinates operations through the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM) to address transnational maritime threats along the Southern California coast.  The ReCoM mission is to increase homeland security by eliminating transnational crime along the coast.  The JHOC in San Diego is the tactical command center for ReCoM.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017