LAGUNA BEACH, CALIF.—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Air and Marine (OAM) marine interdiction agents and air interdiction agents coordinated an early morning operation today stopping a panga boat off the Calif. coastline filled with bales of marijuana worth more than four million dollars.
CBP air interdiction agents on board a Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) detected a vessel at about 12:45 a.m., several miles off the coast in the area of La Jolla, Calif., traveling northbound at approximately 24 knots without displaying required navigational lights. The MEA crew continued tracking the surface contact and identified the vessel as a panga with many bales of possible drugs on board.
CBP marine interdiction agents on patrol in a Midnight Express Interceptor vessel near Del Mar, Calif., were vectored to the panga's location by the MEA crew.
The CBP Interceptor boat caught up to the panga which then attempted to evade the marine interdiction agents. Agents stopped the panga at around 3:30 a.m., about 12 miles southwest off Laguna Beach with two male Mexican nationals onboard. Marine interdiction agents arrested the men and discovered 38 bales onboard the panga containing a total of 119 packages of marijuana. The marijuana has an estimated street value of more than $4,105,000.
The OAM agents seized the panga and turned custody of the men and marijuana over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations specials agents in San Diego. The case is being referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution.
"The Office of Air and Marine, working closely with our partner agencies, continue to patrol the waters off the California coast to prevent illegal and dangerous activities from reaching our shores," said Bill Raymond, director of air operations for the San Diego Air and Marine Branch.
Maritime enforcement action off the California coast is coordinated through member agencies of the Regional Coordinating Mechanisms (ReCoM). The ReCoM is comprised of Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and state and local law enforcement partners operating in Southern California. The ReCoM utilizes the fusion of intelligence, planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the coastal border.
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.