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Stonegarden Partners Intercept Over 2 Tons of Narcotics in Maritime Smuggling Attempt

Release Date: 
March 13, 2020

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. —San Diego Sector Border Patrol agents, Air and Marine Operation (AMO) agents, United States Coast Guard (USCG) assets, and Stonegarden partners arrested 21 individuals and seized over 5,300 pounds of narcotics during a maritime smuggling event Wednesday evening.

Agents and partners seized over 5,300 pounds of narcotics during a maritime smuggling event Wednesday evening.The event began at approximately 8:20 p.m., on March 11, when a 50-foot super panga, with three powerful outboard motors, was observed by an AMO Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) off the coast near Santa Barbara. The MEA notified USCG Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach and USBP Resident agents, who later coordinated with local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies when the boat began traveling towards the shore. Responding agencies included USBP Agents, Santa Barbara Sheriff's Deputies, Ventura County Sheriff Deputies, Homeland Security Investigations, California State Parks, United States Coast Guard, and California Highway Patrol Coastal Division.

Law enforcement personnel responded to the area via land and sea, and with the aid of aerial surveillance, they observed the boat make landfall. Shortly after the panga landed, a van approached and dropped off a 17 person “offload” crew. This offload crew started moving narcotics from the boat, up a canyon, and towards a nearby road.

Officials arrested 21 people and secured the panga. As law enforcement officials approached the scene, the 17 individuals in the offload crew and the four members of the panga crew tried to run away. Officials arrested 21 people and secured the panga.

Law enforcement personnel on scene discovered 204 bundles of marijuana weighing 5,304 pounds with an estimated street value of $2,120,000 and 42.26 gallons of crude cannabis oil (honey oil) with a street value of $6,846,336. The drugs were littered over coastal bluffs and collected over several hours by agents and deputies with the assistance of CBP Office of Field Operations. A helicopter was used to remove the drugs from the area.

All 21 individuals involved were turned over to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and remain in Federal custody pending drug smuggling charges. The four crewmen of the panga were adult male Mexican nationals illegally present in the U.S. The offload crew were all U.S. citizens including three juveniles. The drugs and the super panga was seized by the Border Patrol.

If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the coast of California, call 911, and you will be directed through the proper channels.

Last modified: 
February 3, 2021