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Large Meth and Marijuana Busts off the California Coast Keep ReCoM Partners Busy Over the Weekend

Release Date: 
August 11, 2020
Meth Bust 4
AMO agents arrested four individuals,
seized 528 lbs. of methamphetamine and
the 28’ panga-style vessel.

SAN DIEGO – In less than 24 hours, crews from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) in coordination with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) intercepted two smuggling boats, arrested six individuals, and seized over 528 lbs. of methamphetamine and 941 lbs. of marijuana off the California coast.

The first incident occurred about 12:10 a.m. on August 8, when an AMO Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) crew detected a suspicious panga-style boat, traveling north bound off the San Diego coast. At 1:10 a.m. USCG Cutter Forrest Rednour crew confirmed the panga boat had no navigation lights, launched their smallboat, and attempted to stop the suspect vessel. The subjects drove aggressively impacting the right rear quarter panel of the USCG Cutter’s smallboat.

As an AMO coastal interceptor vessel crew took over on the pursuit, the suspects made several attempts to collide with the AMO vessel, and intentionally struck the AMO vessel as well.

Meth Bust 3
AMO agents deployed warning shots
and ultimately placed several disabling rounds
into the suspects’ engine to bring it to a stop

In compliance with CBP policy, AMO agents deployed warning shots and ultimately placed several disabling rounds into the suspects’ engine to bring it to a stop, at approximately 12  nautical miles west of Oceanside. AMO agents arrested four individuals, seized 528 lbs. of methamphetamine and the 28’ panga-style vessel. All four individuals and narcotics were turned over to U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the vessel was seized by AMO.

Meth Bust 1
AMO agents and USCG officers discovered
941 lbs. of marijuana wrapped in
cellophane packages

The second incident occurred at about 3:28 p.m. on August 8, when USCG Cutter Haddock crew made initial contact and boarded a suspicious vessel in San Diego Bay alerting the Joint Harbor Operations Center (JHOC). A San Diego Marine Unit coastal interceptor vessel crew responded to a call from the JHOC indicating the presence of a suspicious fishing boat docked at San Diego Bay channel. AMO agents boarded the vessel and found two occupants that did not have proper documentation to be in the United States.

Meth Bust 2
A CBP canine team was requested
which alerted to the center console
of the vessel.

AMO agents took the two occupants and vessel into custody, towing the vessel to U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego. A CBP San Diego Office of Field Operations (OFO) canine team was requested which alerted to the center console of the vessel. AMO agents and USCG officers discovered 941 lbs. of marijuana wrapped in cellophane packages. The two subjects and marijuana were turned over to the HSI San Diego Marine Task Force for processing; the vessel was seized by AMO.

“This is an outstanding example of the skills, qualifications, training and disciplined adherence to standards that our personnel bring to the fight in this dangerous maritime environment, said Timothy Sutherland, AMO San Diego Air and Marine Branch. “Confronting smugglers in the maritime environment is extremely dangerous, this case demonstrates how by failing to heave to the vessels’ crew orders, the subjects had no regard for the safety of AMO agents and USCG officers.”

If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, please call the San Diego Joint Harbor Operations Center at 1-800-854-9834 extension 1, or notify local law enforcement by dialing 9-1-1.

The Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM) is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, CBP’s Air and Marine Operations, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Border Patrol, Office of Intelligence, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and state and local law enforcement partners operating in Southern California. ReCoM coordinates planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the California coastal border. 

Last modified: 
August 11, 2020