Three Failed Smuggling Attempts at Sea Yield 34 Illegal Aliens and Half Ton of Marijuana
San Diego - Federal officials apprehended 34 illegal aliens and seized 1,398 pounds of marijuana, after thwarting three smuggling at sea attempts along the San Diego County coastline, Monday and Tuesday.
In the first attempt, at about 5 p.m. on July 5, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Marine Interdiction Agents and a CBP officer on maritime patrol intercepted a private vessel, the "Oh Yeah," as it crossed into the United States from Mexican territorial waters.
Marine Interdiction Agents boarded the vessel for a customs inspection when they discovered a false floor in the deck of the 28-foot fishing vessel's cabin.
Agents removed 291 plastic-wrapped packages of marijuana from under the false deck, and turned custody of the driver of the boat, a 47-year-old male U.S. citizen, over to agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement maritime task force. CBP seized the vessel and narcotics.
In the second attempt, at about 1:30 a.m. on July 6, a U.S. Coast Guard crew aboard a helicopter spotted a panga vessel with a group of illegal aliens off the coast of Oceanside. A Marine Interceptor and Coast Guard cutter joined the pursuit to stop the Mexican fishing boat when it changed course to avoid the helicopter and boat, coming ashore at Bataquitos Lagoon, just north of Encinitas.
Border Patrol agents on shore quickly apprehended eight illegal aliens from the vessel, and with assistance from San Diego Sheriff's deputies, eight more individuals were caught within an hour.
In total, 15 men and one woman, all Mexican citizens, were apprehended. CBP seized the vessel.
"This was a classic example of how our partnerships and layered enforcement strategies in San Diego come to fruition to make the stop," said Paul Pope, acting director of Marine Operations for CBP in San Diego. "Through the Maritime Unified Command, we can best utilize the resources available from different federal, state, and local law enforcement entities to get the job done."
In the third attempt, at about 5 a.m. on July 6, a panga came ashore near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Provost Marshal Officers from the military base spotted and detained 18 individuals from the boat and turned custody over to Border Patrol agents. All of the people apprehended, 13 men and five women, are Mexican citizens with no documents to enter the United States. Following the incident, Coast Guard and CBP air and marine assets searched for the vessel, which pushed back out to sea.
These interdictions were part of a coordinated effort by member agencies of the San Diego Maritime Unified Command. The San Diego Maritime Unified Command, comprised of CBP, ICE, the Coast Guard, and other law enforcement partners, is an all-threats multi-agency approach to maritime law enforcement operating in the San Diego and Orange County maritime region.