San Diego - A team of federal agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's San Diego Maritime Unified Command late last week arrested four Mexican citizens and seized over a ton of marijuana after sighting vessel wreckage strung along a beach on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Los Angeles, Calif.
A U.S. Navy helicopter reported sighting a Mexican panga of a type typically used for smuggling narcotics and aliens in the southern California region heading northbound about 46 miles west of Pt. Loma on the night of March 4.
Surveillance helicopters and vessels from the Maritime Unified Command continued to search the area until the afternoon of March 6 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection marine interdiction agents on a CBP Blackhawk helicopter discovered fuel canisters and wreckage from the panga on a beach on Santa Rosa Island, about 35 miles off of the Santa Barbara coast.
After the helicopter landed, the CBP marine interdiction agents scouted the area and discovered 46 bundles of marijuana weighing 2,448 pounds concealed by vegetation in a nearby canyon and four adult Mexican males hiding in nearby brush.
The contraband and four suspects were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter BLACKFIN by a U.S. Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter via a hoist operation and subsequently turned over to agents of the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force (LA BEST), a multi-agency organization that investigates a wide variety of maritime criminal activities such as drug, human and weapons smuggling, trade fraud and cargo theft.
The four men are awaiting arraignment before a magistrate judge for the alleged smuggling attempt.
The arrests and seizure of the narcotics were part of a coordinated effort by member agencies of the San Diego Maritime Unified Command, the U.S. Navy, the LA BEST, and U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach. San Diego Maritime Unified Command, comprised of CBP, ICE, the Coast Guard, and other law enforcement partners, is an all-threats multi-agency approach to maritime law enforcement operating in the San Diego and Orange County maritime region.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.