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Six Hours of Tracking Leads to Safe Apprehension of 15 at Sea

Release Date: 
September 11, 2020

SAN DIEGO – Agents stopped 15 people off the coast of San Diego Wednesday night trying to enter the U.S. illegally at sea.

“The coordination here was key,” said Tim Sutherland, Director of Operations for the San Diego Air and Marine Branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations. “We had three crews spread across two aircraft and a vessel working together for many, many hours before we were able to apprehend these individuals safely while they were still at sea.”

Agents stop 15 people off the coast of San Diego Wednesday night trying to enter the U.S. illegally at sea.At about 9 p.m. on Sept. 9, a crew aboard a multi-role enforcement aircraft detected a panga heading towards the United States from Mexico.  The crew continued to track the panga until they passed the tracking off to the crew of another Air and Marine Operations multi-role enforcement aircraft.  Between the two crews, they tracked the boat for about six hours as it made its way towards the San Diego coastline.  The aircraft crew began to direct the crew aboard an interdiction vessel on a path to intercept the suspected smuggling boat.

At about 3 a.m., the agents aboard the Air and Marine Operations boat intercepted the panga.  They turned on lights and sirens, directing the boat to stop, and the operator of the panga did.  Marine interdiction agents counted 15 individuals on board, and determined that all were Mexican nationals attempting to illegally enter the U.S.

The marine interdiction agents brought the 15 people safely to the dock where they were turned over to U.S. Border Patrol agents.  USBP agents determined the group included four women, ages 19-23, and 11 men, ages 22-45.

Agents processed the group for return to their home country; the suspected operator of the boat was held, pending federal criminal charges.

CBP marine interdiction agents seized the 27-foot panga. 

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.

Last modified: 
September 11, 2020