ENCINITAS, Calif. — On August 24, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents, in conjunction with Homeland Security Investigations, the Marine Task Force (MTF), and Air and Marine Operations (AMO), arrested 14 individuals connected to a maritime smuggling event.
The incident began at approximately 10:30 a.m., when a concerned citizen called the Joint Harbor Operations Center (JHOC) to report that a suspicious panga-style vessel had beached near Stone Steps Beach in Encinitas. The JHOC notified Border Patrol agents who responded to the location.
Through a video review, agents determined that 13 individuals disembarked the vessel. Responding quickly, agents apprehended seven people in the local neighborhood and determined they were illegally present in the U.S.
Following interviews and intelligence gathering, agents discovered that the remaining suspects were staging at a nearby hotel. Border Patrol agents, with assistance from MTF agents, conducted an investigation at the hotel. Finding the suspects, agents made seven additional arrests and discovered personal use narcotics.
Further investigation by agents led to the discovery of another hotel room in South Gate, CA that was intended to be used to further the subjects’ illegal entry into the United States. With assistance from the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force, a search of the hotel room resulted in the discovery of 4.97 pounds of methamphetamine and a non-serialized AR style rifle, also known as a “ghost gun”. Officers from a local police department seized the rifle and meth.
A total of nine Mexican citizens, two Salvadoran citizens, and one Honduran citizen were determined to be unlawfully present in the U.S. One U.S. citizen and one lawful permanent resident from Mexico were arrested during this incident and booked for felony alien smuggling (8 USC 1324). The remaining 12 subjects were processed for removal at a nearby Border Patrol station.
AMO seized the vessel. USBP seized the personal use narcotics and two vehicles.
Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke stated, “Our agents remain committed to securing our borders against any unlawful incursions. As demonstrated today, community members play a vital role in assisting our operations. We are grateful for their continued support.”
If you have information about maritime smuggling or suspicious activity along the California coast, 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.