SAN DIEGO – The San Diego and Los Angeles DHS Regional Coordinating Mechanisms utilizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Coast Guard assets worked together to disrupt a maritime smuggling attempt off the coast of California Friday night.
Two suspects were taken into custody, and authorities seized the panga boat and 51 bales of marijuana with an estimated weight of more than 1,000 pounds.
A CBP Multi-roll Enforcement Aircraft (MEA) spotted the boat Friday afternoon near San Clemente Island. The Coast Guard Cutter Petrel and a boat from Coast Guard Station San Diego were dispatched to intercept the panga.
The suspected smugglers fled south and jettisoned the bales of marijuana. A CBP Blackjawk helicopter, Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and C-130 Hercules aircraft also launched to track the smuggling boat.
The CBP and Coast Guard air and surface crews pursued the panga until it was intercepted approximately 120 miles southwest of San Diego in international waters just after 8 p.m.
The smuggling suspects were taken aboard the Petrel and the panga was towed to San Diego. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Active recovered 51 bales from the water, which were taken to San Diego and turned over to the Maritime Task Force.
The suspects were taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations special agents and the case is being referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution.
The Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection are member agencies of the Regional Coordinating Mechanisms (ReCoM). The ReCoM is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, CBP's Office of Air and Marine, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and state and local law enforcement partners operating in the Southern California. The ReCoM utilizes the fusion of intelligence, planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the coastal border.