Oceanside, Calif. — Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducting patrol operations for the San Diego Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM) stopped a private recreational boat Friday at Oceanside Harbor with more than 500 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a secret compartment.
At about 10:30 a.m. on February 21, Marine Interdiction Agents were conducting a routine patrol of the harbor in Oceanside, Calif. when they encountered a 30-foot, twin engine Wellcraft boat with one person onboard, a 48-year-old male U.S. citizen, and resident of California.
Agents determined the boat was arriving into U.S. waters from Mexico, escorted the boat to the dock, and conducted a customs inspection of the vessel.
When on board the vessel, Marine Interdiction Agents conducted their inspection with the assistance of a U.S. Border Patrol agent with a canine and a CBP officer. They found signs of a hidden compartment that ran down the sides within the hull of the boat, and under the floor. Assisted by U.S. Border Patrol agents from San Clemente Station, agents found 200 packages tightly wrapped with plastic inside the compartment.
The packages contained 540.5 pounds of methamphetamine, which has an estimated street value of about $7 million.
“Events in recent years have highlighted the threat of the panga – open hulled Mexican fishing boats that attempt to evade us but when spotted, are easy to identify as smuggling vessels,” said Keley Hill, Director of Marine Operations in San Diego. “What can never be overlooked is the covert nature of traditional smuggling methods that have been in use since time immemorial. A smuggler posing as a legitimate recreational or commercial boater is the proverbial needle in a sea of needles in a place like Southern California and Baja Mexico, where boating is a way of life.”
CBP Office of Air and Marine (OAM) Marine Interdiction Agents seized the vessel and narcotics, and turned the vessel occupant over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations agents working as part of the San Diego Marine Task Force. He will face federal prosecution.
The San Diego ReCoM coordinates planning and operations to target and disrupt transnational crime along the coastal border. Member agencies include local, state, and federal agencies with responsibilities along harbors, coastlines, and other maritime domains in Southern California, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection.