Santa Barbara, Calif. - On January 21, 2021, at approximately 10:30 a.m., Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM) partners working with CBP intercepted a small, open bowed fishing vessel that originated in Mexico (“panga”) with 15 individuals on the beach near Santa Barbara.
The vessel was discovered during a routine U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) maritime air patrol. The panga-style vessel made landfall on the beach in the area of Goleta, CA. After doing so, the group scattered to avoid apprehension. U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), including the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (LA-BEST), arrived on scene and apprehended all 15 people after an exhaustive five hour search.
The subjects included 10 adult males, one juvenile male, and four adult females. Two of the men were Venezuelan nationals and the remainder of the group was found to be Mexican nationals, all without documents that would allow them to legally enter the United States.
Response to the event included CBP Air and Marine Operations and CBP Office of Field Operations, with communications support from the Maritime Coordination Center. Local Police helped secure the area while DHS officials apprehended the group and seized the vessel. No injuries were reported, and all subjects were transported to a Border Patrol Station for processing.
During Fiscal Year 2020, Santa Barbara County experienced several notable interdictions by USBP and local law enforcement partners. On March 12, 2020, more than 5,300 lbs. of marijuana and a record domestic seizure of 42 gallons of concentrated cannabis oil was seized on a panga-style vessel. This was followed on August 19, 2020 by another record seizure of 3,164 lbs. of methamphetamine along the California central coast, the 2nd largest domestic methamphetamine seizure at the time. The methamphetamine was also being smuggled in an open bowed panga vessel. Several people were also arrested in both events.
“The collaboration and effectiveness of our maritime partnerships is well illustrated by this smuggling incident,” said USBP, San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke. “This was an outstanding collaborative effort with all of our partners from the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM).”
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.