SAN DIEGO – San Diego Air and Marine Operations (AMO) agents detected a single outboard engine operating without navigational lights off the California coast just after 11 p.m. Sunday.
Air and Marine Operations agents vectored in a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat that successfully interdicted the 27’ panga approximately 18 - nm west of La Jolla.
“Sea conditions, visibility, and weather are unimportant considerations to smugglers who continually prioritize profit by placing their victims in overcrowded small, open vessels with personal flotation devices that are often unsafe and insufficient,” said AMO San Diego Air and Marine Branch Director of Air and Marine Operations Rafael Cabrera.
After boarding the panga, U.S. Coast Guard reported 20 persons, 12 men and eight women, on board the small vessel. Three men requested medical attention. U.S. Border Patrol Agents from a nearby Border Patrol Station took custody of the undocumented individuals. The three injured were transported to the hospital and the remaining 17 persons were transported to a Border Patrol Station for processing. Among those in custody were two women and two men from Guatemala, two women were from El Salvador, and four women and 10 men were from Mexico.
The AMO San Diego Marine Unit seized the panga.
“Transnational Criminal Organizations remain a threat to our national security and to public safety,” said U.S. Border Patrol San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “They are heavily involved in every kind of smuggling – moving people and narcotics through their elaborate criminal networks with no regard for the lives they destroy.”
If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, please call the Joint Harbor Operations Center at 1-800-854-9834, ext. 1 or call 9-1-1, and you will be directed through the proper channels.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is a member agency of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM). Other members include federal, and state and local law-enforcement agencies operating in Southern California. The ReCoM coordinates planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the California coastal border.