DEL MAR, Calif.—U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents in North County San Diego and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partners arrested 21 people on Tuesday during an early morning maritime smuggling event.
At approximately 3 a.m., Border Patrol agents spotted a suspicious vessel off the coast of Del Mar near Dog Beach. Anticipating a landing at Camino Del Mar, agents arrived and saw a group of people wearing life-jackets and running towards three vehicles. Agents attempted to intercept the three vehicles, but only one yielded. The other two drove off at a high rate of speed.
Agents stopped the 2003 Mazda minivan, which was being driven by a 68-year-old male U.S. citizen. His passengers included three women and five men, one was a 17-year-old minor. All were Mexican nationals illegally present in the U.S.
Agents arrested the minivan driver and eight passengers, taking all nine to a nearby Border Patrol station for processing.
Other USBP agents followed the two absconding vehicles to a nearby hotel in Carlsbad, Calif., and arrested the drivers. Both were U.S. citizens, one male and one female. Agents also arrested eight additional Mexican nationals who were passengers in the two vehicles.
USBP agents simultaneously coordinated with U.S. Coast Guard partners, who located and intercepted the panga that had dropped off the 16 Mexican nationals as it was trying to return to Mexico. The two Mexican national men onboard were arrested and taken into custody.
USBP seized the three vehicles involved in the human smuggling event and Air and Marine Operations seized the panga boat.
Five defendants will face human smuggling charges and one boat passenger will face charges for re-entry after prior removal. The remaining subjects were processed for removal at a Border Patrol station.
“I am proud of the hard work and diligence the agents displayed in this case,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, “This was an outstanding collaborative effort with all of our partners from the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM).”
To prevent the illicit smuggling of humans, drugs, and other contraband, the U.S. Border Patrol maintains a high level of vigilance on corridors of egress away from our Nation’s borders. 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.